Chilling Allegations Emerge From Activision Blizzard Lawsuit

A lawsuit by the state of California alleges Activision Blizzard have a pervasively sexist culture against women, an allegation supported by more and more evidence.

Last week and this have seen a flurry of accusations come to light against Activision Blizzard staff. They arise following a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against the company.

The state agency filed the lawsuit after a two-year-long investigation that uncovered a history and culture of discrimination and harassment against women throughout the company, from matters regarding compensation and employment to allegations of a "pervasive frat boy workplace culture."

Most chilling among the allegations against Activision Blizzard is a female employee who committed suicide while on a company trip with a male supervisor she was in a sexual relationship with, and it is also alleged nude photos of her were passed around at a company party.

The announcement of the lawsuit and its details are a bombshell considering Activision Blizzard's public stance on discrimination, as the company has been outspoken about its inclusiveness throughout the years.

From the outside looking in, it appears a flurry of emails has been circulating throughout the company about the allegations. Vice president of corporate affairs Frances Townsend claimed in an email (appearing in the Bloomberg article that broke the original story) they were "a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories  some from more than a decade ago."

This isn't the only insight we have into what's happening inside Activision Blizzard, as over 2,000 of the company's 10,000 employees signed an open letter with demands for more inclusive and transparent policies within the company.

The letter's demands were that the company acknowledge and issue official statements about the allegations, that Frances Towsend step down as Executive Sponsor to the ABK Employee Women's Network, and that executive leadership collaborates with employees to create an environment where they are safe to step forward.

Following the letter, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick released a statement admitting their initial responses to the allegations were "tone-deaf," and highlighted five actions the company would implement immediately. These included employee support, listening sessions, personnel changes, additional compliance resources for hiring practices, and changes to their games that are deemed inappropriate.

On Wednesday, July 28, over 350 employees joined in a walkout to protest Activision Blizzard's response to the discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit. The company sent out an email the day before promising pay for those who joined the walkout, which lasted from 10 a.m. PDT to 2 a.m. PDT.

With the walkout came an additional set of four demands entailing an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in employee contracts, the publication of compensation data to aid in deducing fair pay, an overhaul of the company's hiring and promotion policies through an internal Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization, and a third party to audit the company's HR department, reporting structure, and executive staff.

The more micro aspects to this lawsuit are more damning than what can be found in the court documents. Since the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed its lawsuit and the Bloomberg report on it, multiple instances of repeated harassment have come to light, and the number of victims coming forth as well as the list of perpetrators just keeps growing.

In the meantime, development on Blizzard's flagship title World of Warcraft has halted and developer Alex Klontzas has hinted the next patch may be delayed. Activision Blizzard has also hired a legal firm best known for busting unions, which it has done with great success in regards to retail titan Amazon.

This story is ongoing. 

Associate Editor

Ashley is pretty lost in most things, but not the FFXIV smol life. Oh yeah, there's someone impersonating me. Trust me: I didn't email you.

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Published Jul. 31st 2021

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