Wednesday, July 28, 2021

CA state agency sues Activision Blizzard, alleges discrimination against women

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Enlarge / Sign on the facade of the Activision offices in Los Angeles.

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On Wednesday, a California state agency filed a lawsuit against game publisher Activision Blizzard for allegations of rampant sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. The nature of this harassment is so pervasive, the lawsuit claims, that women who have worked for the game maker “almost universally confirmed that working for the defendants was like working in a fraternity,” which, according to this lawsuit, means a workplace. full of drunk men who sexually harassed their female partners without punishment.

The 29-page lawsuit states that across the corporation, pay disparity led to women receiving “less total compensation than their male counterparts while doing substantially similar work.” It includes multiple alleged examples of Activision Blizzard slowing down the promotions of women in favor of their male counterparts, even when those women had longer terms and a superior review record at the company, adding that women of color were “particularly targeted by women of color. discriminatory practices of the accused. “And it described an office environment where drunk men sexually harassed their female colleagues without being punished.

A direct report to the president of Blizzard

The entire lawsuit includes a long list of violations of both sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including many highlighting unidentified Activision Blizzard employees, ranging from explicit to disgusting. The lawsuit describes a particularly extreme example of alleged harassment, and says the victim ultimately took her own life.

Several company executives are mentioned by name in the lawsuit. Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allard Brack allegedly received a direct report from an employee in “early 2019” that employees were leaving the company for “sexual harassment and sexism.” The report pointed directly to the company’s battle.net online service team, where “women who were not ‘big players’ or ‘main players’ and who weren’t at the party scene were excluded and treated as strangers. “.

A former senior creative director of the company World of warcraft The division reportedly had a reputation at its annual BlizzCon event for flirting with female colleagues, one so aggressive that “the supervisors had to step in and get him off the female employees.” Brack is named in these indictments for giving the director nothing more than a “slap on the wrist” after each incident, which was allegedly followed by subsequent harassment of the women.

And an Activision CTO, not identified by name, was allegedly seen “groping drunk employees at company events” and allegedly hired women based on their appearance.

The lawsuit alleges a long and detailed history of Activision Blizzard not responding to official complaints filed by affected personnel. Those complaints were allegedly not kept confidential, and the lawsuit claims that those whistleblowers were subjected to subsequent retaliation, which took place in the form of layoffs, unwanted department transfers and the denial of new career opportunities.

Company response: “irresponsible state bureaucrats”

Activision Blizzard issued a declaration after the lawsuit, going so far as to accuse the California State Department of Housing and Fair Employment of “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” After stating that the DFEH did not engage in “good faith discussions” before filing its lawsuit, it called the lawsuit “irresponsible behavior by irresponsible state bureaucrats who [is] driving out of California many of the best companies in the state. “

The damages requested by the DFEH include those based on the wage disparity for women, and while Activision Blizzard’s statement includes claims that they “go to great lengths[s] to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work, “does not acknowledge any possible past pay gap problem for the company, or how it could have rectified it in light of California state law.

Activision Blizzard is far from alone in terms of sexual harassment allegations in the video game industry, as seen in recent examples at Ubisoft, EA, and Riot Games.

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