sexual harassment

California sues Activision Blizzard over culture of sexual harassment, discrimination

Victor Barreiro Jr.
California sues Activision Blizzard over culture of sexual harassment, discrimination
The lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing says the company had a 'pervasive frat boy workplace culture'

Game publishing company Activision Blizzard is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) due to the company fostering a culture of “constant sexual harassment” and gender-based discrimination.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, July 20, in the Los Angeles Superior Court, is the result of a two-year investigation into the company.

Bloomberg, in its report, said the DFEH found Activision Blizzard “discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, and termination.”

The lawsuit says the company is staffed by about 20% women employees. Across the company women “are assigned to lower paid and lower opportunity levels” of employment.

It added, “female employees receive lower starting pay and earn less than male employees for substantially similar work.”

Activision Blizzard was also said to “promote women more slowly and terminate them more quickly than their male counterparts,” leading to many women leaving the company.

The company and its subsidiaries publish games from franchises such as Diablo, Warcraft, Overwatch, Candy Crush, and Crash Bandicoot.

Toxic workplace

A “pervasive frat boy workplace culture” reinforced the problems.

Aside from “cube crawls,” where male employees “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,” the lawsuit said women were subjected to “constant sexual harassment.”

These include “having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male coworkers and supervisors,” as well as being groped at said cube crawls and company events.

The human resource personnel fielding the complaints of staff members are also said to have not acted upon complaints as they were said to be close to the harassers.

Blizzard president J. Allen Brack is one person specifically named due to being aware of and enabling the culture.

Also named was Alex Afrasiabi, former senior creative director of World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment. The suit said he “was permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions.”

The suit also said a female Activision employee took her own life while on a company trip with her male supervisor.

Regarding this, Bloomberg says, “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 DFEH is seeking an injunction to force compliance with workplace protections. It is also seeking unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees.

Activision Blizzard responds

Activision Blizzard meanwhile responded to the release of the DFEH lawsuit, saying, “The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.”

The company also claimed the suit was “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”

“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,” the company added.

“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,” the Activision Blizzard statement went on to say.

A full copy of DFEH lawsuit is available here. – Rappler.com

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.