California Sues Activision Blizzard For “Frat Boy” Culture And Harassment Of Female Employees

Warn­ing: This sto­ry includes reports or sex­u­al harass­ment, abuse, and sui­cide.

Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Depart­ment of Fair Employ­ment and Hous­ing has filed a law­suit against Activi­sion Bliz­zard over claims of equal pay vio­la­tions, sex dis­crim­i­na­tion, and sex­u­al harass­ment, among oth­er thing . The suit also men­tioned that some male employ­ees did “engage in sex­u­al ban­ter and joke open­ly about rape, among oth­er things.” The law­suit also states that a female Activi­sion employ­ee took her own life on a com­pa­ny trip with her male boss.

The employ­ee 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,” accord­ing to a Bloomberg report.

The DFEH launched its civ­il law­suit against Activi­sion Bliz­zard, Bliz­zard Enter­tain­ment, and Activi­sion Pub­lish­ing on Wednes­day in Los Ange­les Supe­ri­or Court. The orga­ni­za­tion says the com­pa­nies are vio­lat­ing Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Equal Pay Act and Fair Employ­ment and Hous­ing Act. The law­suit fol­lows after the Cal­i­for­nia Sen­ate Bill No. 973–which allows DFEH to file law­suits around vio­la­tions of the state’s Equal Pay Act–went into effect on Jan­u­ary 1, 2021.

The law­suit claims that Activi­sion Bliz­zard fos­tered a sex­ist cul­ture and paid women less than men despite doing sub­stan­tial­ly sim­i­lar work, assigned women to low­er-lev­el jobs, and pro­mot­ed them at slow­er rates than men, and fired or forced women to quit at high­er fre­quen­cies than men.”

The law­suit went on to claim that African Amer­i­can women and oth­er peo­ple of col­or at Activi­sion Bliz­zard were “par­tic­u­lar­ly impact­ed” by what the DFEH is call­ing “dis­crim­i­na­to­ry prac­tices” by the company.

DFEH alleges that women were sub­ject­ed to con­stant sex­u­al harass­ment, includ­ing grop­ing, com­ments, and advances. The law­suit also alleges that the com­pa­ny’s exec­u­tives and human resources per­son­nel knew of the harass­ment and failed to take rea­son­able steps to pre­vent the unlaw­ful con­duct, and instead retal­i­at­ed against women who com­plained,” as stat­ed by the DFEH.

Bloomberg reports that about 20% of Activi­sion Bliz­zard’s work­force are female, and that the com­pa­ny has a “per­va­sive frat boy work­place cul­ture.” The report states that some male employ­ees par­tic­i­pate in what’s being called “cube crawls” where they “drink copi­ous amounts of alco­hol as they crawl their way through var­i­ous cubi­cles in the office and often engage in inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior toward female employees.”

All employ­ers should ensure that their employ­ees are being paid equal­ly and take all steps to pre­vent dis­crim­i­na­tion, harass­ment, and retal­i­a­tion,” DFEH direc­tor Kevin Kish said. This is espe­cial­ly impor­tant for employ­ers in male-dom­i­nat­ed indus­tries, such as tech­nol­o­gy and gaming.”

The law­suit wants Activi­sion Bliz­zard to adhere to poli­cies for work­place pro­tec­tions in Cal­i­for­nia, and also seeks to have the com­pa­ny pay mon­ey in form of back pay, lost wages, and unpaid wages for female employees.

Activi­sion Bliz­zard did respond to the law­suit, say­ing the claims are “dis­tort­ed, and in many cas­es false” descrip­tions of behav­ior from the past. They also said they’ve tak­en steps and actions to cor­rect the prob­lems. You can read Activi­sion Bliz­zard’s full state­ment below:

We val­ue diver­si­ty and strive to fos­ter a work­place that offers inclu­siv­i­ty for every­one. There is no place in our com­pa­ny or indus­try, or any indus­try, for sex­u­al mis­con­duct or harass­ment of any kind. We take every alle­ga­tion seri­ous­ly and inves­ti­gate all claims. In cas­es relat­ed to mis­con­duct, action was tak­en to address the issue.

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.”

I am a Platinum lover and an ex- Cod-aholic. I've been playing games since I was 5 years old and I refuse to quit, despite my mother's attempts to get me to. God of War and its successors are my all time favorite games.

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