Activision Blizzard sued by California over widespread sexism, harassment

The California Department of Fair Work and Real Estate (DFEH) is taking legal action against Activision Blizzard over what court files describe as a “frat boy” workplace culture that subjects its female staff members to gender-based discrimination and “constant sexual harassment.” Bloomberg Law initially reported the news. A number of previous Activision Blizzard staff members have actually spoken up on social networks to substantiate these stories.

The claim was submitted Tuesday in a Los Angeles court, declaring that Activision Blizzard — and its subsidiaries, consisting of Blizzard Home entertainment — permits prevalent sexism and discrimination throughout the business. A number of magnates, consisting of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, are called in the claim for understanding about and allowing this habits. DFEH stated it carried out a two-year examination into Activision Blizzard prior to submitting the claim.

Accusations recorded in the claim are prevalent: The examination discovered that ladies represent just 20% of its staff members, keeping in mind that “very few women ever reach top roles at the company.” Those that do, the DFEH stated, make less cash than their male coworkers — something that supposedly drips down through all positions at the business. In other circumstances, the claim explains supervisors declining to promote ladies.

“Women of color were particularly vulnerable targets of [Activision Blizzard’s] discriminatory practices,” DFEH stated in the claim. It likewise declared that staff members were “discouraged from complaining as human resource personnel were known to be close to alleged harassers.”

DFEH likewise compares Activision Blizzard’s culture to “a frat house,” where a culture of unwanted sexual advances dominated. One worker highlighted in the claim stated that “random male employees would […] comment on her breasts.” The Wow group, too, is called out in the claim for how its male staff members would “hit on [female employees], make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior.”

Previous Wow senior imaginative director Alex Afrasiabi was called as a high-level “harasser” who was “permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions.”

Throughout a business occasion (a yearly convention called Blizz Con) Afrasiabi would strike on female staff members, informing him he wished to wed them, trying to kiss them, and putting his arms around them. This remained in plain view of other male staff members, consisting of managers, who needed to step in and pull him off female staff members.

Blizzard president Brack is declared to have actually had “multiple conversations” with Afrasiabi about this conduct, however chose “a slap on the wrist” in action, according to the match. The DFEH stated Afrasiabi “continued to make unwanted advances towards female employees, including grabbing a female employee’s hand and inviting her to his hotel room and groping another women.”

In a declaration offered to Polygon, Activision Blizzard rejected claims of a sexist culture, calling the report “distorted, and in many cases false.” You can check out the business’s complete declaration listed below.

We value variety and aim to promote a work environment that provides inclusivity for everybody. There is no location in our business or market, or any market, for sexual misbehavior or harassment of any kind. We take every accusation seriously and examine all claims. In cases connected to misbehavior, action was required to resolve the problem.

The DFEH consists of distorted, and oftentimes incorrect, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have actually been very cooperative with the DFEH throughout their examination, consisting of supplying them with substantial information and adequate documents, however they declined to notify us what concerns they viewed. They were needed by law to effectively examine and to have excellent faith conversations with us to much better comprehend and to fix any claims or issues prior to going to lawsuits, however they stopped working to do so. Rather, they hurried to submit an unreliable grievance, as we will show in court. We are sickened by the wicked conduct of the DFEH to drag into the grievance the awful suicide of a worker whose death has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her mourning household. While we discover this habits to be disgraceful and less than professional, it is regrettably an example of how they have actually performed themselves throughout the course of their examination. It is this kind of reckless habits from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving a lot of the State’s finest companies out of California.

The image the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard work environment these days. Over the previous a number of years and continuing because the preliminary examination began, we’ve made considerable modifications to resolve business culture and show more variety within our management groups. We’ve enhanced internal programs and channels for staff members to report infractions, consisting of the “ASK List” with a private stability hotline, and presented a Worker Relations group committed to examining worker issues. We have actually enhanced our dedication to variety, equity and addition and integrated our Worker Networks at a worldwide level, to supply extra assistance. Workers should likewise go through routine anti-harassment training and have actually done so for several years.

We put significant effort in producing reasonable and satisfying settlement plans and policies that show our culture and company, and we aim to pay all staff members relatively for equivalent or significantly comparable work. We take a range of proactive actions to make sure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory aspects. For instance, we reward and compensate staff members based upon their efficiency, and we carry out substantial anti-discrimination trainings consisting of for those who belong to the settlement procedure.

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 DFEH was also involved in a gender-based discrimination lawsuit at Riot games in 2018, which was filed following a Kotaku investigation into the company’s sexist culture. The League of Legends developer was ordered to pay “at least $10 million” to women that have worked at Riot within a five-year period. A month later, the DFEH objected to the $10 million payout, saying the women were owed much more — as much as $400 million.

In the years following the Riot Games report, waves of video game developers and other industry members who say they’ve experienced harassment and toxic work cultures have come forward — resulting in multiple “#MeToo moments.” Wednesday’s lawsuit against Activision Blizzard has similarly ushered in a new round of game industry staff members sharing stories of harassment, sexism, and bigotry they’ve dealt with at Activision Blizzard and in other places on social networks.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.