A lawsuit has been filed against against Activision Blizzard for a discriminatory work culture towards women in the company. According to the complaint the "frat boy culture" has led to a complaint being filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) after a two-year investigation. A culture in which female employees have been subjected to unequal treatment, harassment and humiliation — and this isn't an isolated case, as female staff make up 20% of Activision Blizzard's staff.
The investigation found unpaid debts, wage discrepancies and discrimination against those who became pregnant. Women were also discriminated against when it came promotions, and less consideration was given when firing them.
The complaint also details events, known as "cube crawls", in which the men would get drunk and crawl around the cubicles harassing their colleagues with inappropriate behavior, mentioning "flagrant innuendo, touching, harassment and neglect."
It also describes male employees showing up late and hungover, delegating tasks to female colleagues or kicking them out of the lactation room in order to hold meetings. They also blame human resources for ignoring the complaints over the years — HR did not take complaints seriously, or keep them confidential, subjecting the women to more harassment.
The suit also brings attention to the suicide of an employee, while on a business trip, who had been subjected to intense sexual harassment prior to her death, including having nude photos passed around at a company holiday party, the complaint says.
The DFEH is seeking an injection to force compliance with workplace protections, unpaid wages and benefits alongside numerous other pay related compensation for the for the female employees.
Activision provided the following statement to The Verge and other publications:
The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.
The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We’ve amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.
We put tremendous effort in creating fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination trainings including for those who are part of the compensation process.
We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It is a shame that the DFEH did not want to engage with us on what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.