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Activision Blizzard has been sued by the California Department of Housing and Fair Employment for sex discrimination in the workplace.
The company that makes games, including World of Warcraft, Diablo and Call of Duty, is accused of having a “frat boy” culture in which female employees are subjected to harassment, unequal pay, retaliation and failure to avoid harassment, according to the demand. .
That’s in stark contrast to how the company described itself in its recent report on Environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. In that report, Activision Blizzard said that since 2016, the number of women in leadership positions in game development has doubled. And the promotion rates for minorities and non-minorities are the same, and the promotion rate for women is slightly higher than the rate for men. In a statement (included below), the company said the allegations do not represent today’s company and that it has taken steps to deal with past misconduct.
The lawsuit comes after a two-year investigation by the state agency. He said the company discriminates against female employees in terms of employment such as compensation, assignment, promotion and dismissal. The company’s leadership consistently failed to take steps to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation, the agency said.
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In a way, these kinds of allegations are familiar, as Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends and Activision Blizzard’s neighbor in Los Angeles, also faced charges of sexual harassment against women and had to pay a $ 10 million settlement in 2019. French video game publisher Ubisoft has also faced numerous accusations from #MeToo about sexual harassment in the past year.
The complaint was filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. Women make up 20% of Activision’s workforce and are subject to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture.” That culture allegedly encouraged and tolerated sexual jokes, jokes about rape, unwelcome propositions and other degrading behavior, the suit alleges.
The lawsuit says an Activision employee took her own life while traveling with a male supervisor. The employee was allegedly subjected to intense sexual harassment prior to her death, including the distribution of nude photos at a company party, according to the complaint.
The agency requested a court order enforcing workplace protections. He also asked the company to pay unpaid wages, pay adjustments, provide back wages and lost wages and benefits for female employees.
As of December 31, 2020, Activision Blizzard had 9,630 employees, up from 9,234 the previous year. Women are 24% of total employees, while underrepresented minorities are 34% of the general base. The company said in its own report that it is trying to improve those ratios, but it is no different from the games industry in general. The company has nine employee networks dedicated to becoming a more inclusive company.
Here is the response from the company:
We value diversity and strive to foster an inclusive workplace for all. There is no place in our company or industry, or in any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate every claim. In cases involving misconduct, steps were taken to address the problem.
The DFEH includes distorted and false descriptions in many cases from Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and extensive documentation, but they refused to tell us what problems they perceived. They were required by law to properly investigate and discuss in good faith with us to better understand and resolve any complaints or concerns before initiating litigation, but they did not. Instead, they were quick to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will show in court. We are repulsed by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH in bringing to the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose death has nothing to do with this case and without taking into account her bereaved family. While we consider this behavior to be embarrassing and unprofessional, it is sadly an example of how they have behaved throughout their investigation. It is this kind of irresponsible behavior by unaccountable state bureaucrats that is driving many of the best companies out of the state of California.
The picture DFEH paints is not today’s Blizzard workplace. Over the past several years and since the initial investigation began, we have made significant changes to address company culture and reflect greater diversity within our leadership teams. We updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation approach, expanded 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 have combined our global employee networks to provide additional support. Employees are also required to receive regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.
We put great effort into creating fair and rewarding compensation policies and packages 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 payment is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct comprehensive anti-discrimination training, 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 for years to come. It’s a shame that the DFEH didn’t want to talk to us about what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.
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