The gaming giant’s employees are planning a protest following its ‘insulting’ response to a lawsuit that exposed claims of a toxic workplace culture.
Employees of US video game company Activision Blizzard are planning a walkout over an “abhorrent and insulting” response from company leadership to a lawsuit that exposed serious allegations of sexism and harassment at the company.
The lawsuit, which was filed on 22 July by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, described a “frat boy” company culture and said women employees faced “constant sexual harassment”.
A two-year investigation into the company, which is based in California, alleged that women were held back from promotions for various reasons, including the possibility that they may take maternity leave. Employees were also subject to comments about sexual violence, it claimed.
An initial response from Activision Blizzard, the publisher behind popular games including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, said the lawsuit “includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past”.
However, the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, later rowed back on that position. In a letter to employees yesterday (27 July), Kotick said the past week had been “difficult and upsetting”.
“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf … I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”
He added that Activision Blizzard would be taking “swift action” to prevent any further incidents. The company will hire law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of its policies and procedures, and Kotick urged anyone affected by a negative experience at the company to reach out to the law firm’s representative in charge of the investigation.
Kotik’s letter came after more than 2,600 current and former employees signed an open letter in support of the lawsuit. It said signatories did not have confidence in the current leadership’s ability to “hold abusers accountable for their actions”.
Today (28 July), workers who support the lawsuit will stage a walkout at the company’s Irvine campus and virtually.
“We believe that that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership,” the protest organisers said.
In a statement, they said their aim was to “improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of colour and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalised groups”.
We stand with the Blizzard employees who have unfortunately experienced discrimation and abuse. The industry *HAS* to change and stop accepting toxic behaviours as the norm. #ActiBlizzWalkout pic.twitter.com/PAHMX6NxFC
— Black Girl Gamers (@blackgirlgamers) July 27, 2021
Workers across the video game industry are being encouraged to support the protest too, and donate to charities that support marginalised communities in gaming, including Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and Women in Games International.
The group is asking Activision Blizzard leadership to end mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts, create inclusive hiring and promotion processes, publish a report regarding salary breakdowns to ensure marginalised groups are fairly compensated, and hire a third party to audit higher-level and executive staff.