Another Day, Another Sexual Harassment Suit In The Gaming Industry

Content warning: This article discusses sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and suicide.
In regards to its treatment of women, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “violations of the state’s civil rights and equal pay laws.”
According to Bloomberg, the lawsuit is the result of a two-year investigation by the state agency into Activision Blizzard’s “frat boy” culture, a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”
It describes a work environment where women have to “continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances” and are “groped” at what is described as “cube crawls.”
It is common for male employees to drink copious amounts of alcohol as they ‘crawl’ their way through various cubicles in the office and engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees, according to the lawsuit. Male employees come to work hungover, play video games for long periods of time during work hours while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies and joke about rape.”
The document goes on to describe the tragic consequences of this alleged constant sexual harassment, including a female employee who committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who brought butt plugs and lubricant with him.
In the DFEH report, numerous complaints were made to HR and management, including to Blizzard Entertainment’s J. Allen Brack.
Human resources personnel were also known to be close to alleged harassers, the lawsuit alleges. “In retaliation, female employees were denied work on projects, transferred to different departments, and laid off.”
The lawsuit also highlights a pay gap between genders across all roles and seniority levels.
The document reads, “These discriminatory practices began at hire, when women were offered lower salaries and less lucrative job assignments and opportunities than their male counterparts.”
Chief people officer Claudine Naughton made $655k in 2020, while, for example, president and chief operating officer Daniel Alegre earned over $1 million. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick had his salary slashed 50% over the past year.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs also claim that women at Activision Blizzard have to “work harder and longer” in order to earn promotions and be given the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
“The DFEH provides distorted, and sometimes incorrect, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” they said. “We have been extremely cooperative with them throughout their investigation, and have provided them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they failed to clarify what issues they perceived.” By law, they had to adequately investigate and have good faith discussions with us to better understand and resolve any claims or concerns before commencing litigation, but they did not do so.”
They continued to say that the complaint was “rushed,” and condemned “the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH in dragging into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no connection whatsoever to this case.”
The company also stated that Activision Blizzard has made significant changes to its company culture in recent years, ensuring more diversity within its leadership teams. The company’s leadership team can be viewed on this page.
In order to create a healthy workplace culture, the company has adopted a code of conduct that emphasizes strict non-retaliation, put in place internal channels to report violations, and established an Employee Relations team. Employees of Activision Blizzard must also undergo regular anti-harassment training.
In the years to come, we intend to continue to demonstrate that we are an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people. It is unfortunate that DFEH refused to engage with us about their findings.”

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