Activision-Blizzard is being sued by The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for the company’s “frat boy” culture, which has been exhaustively detailed in a lawsuit citing examples of rampant harassment and gender-based discrimination occurring within its subsidiaries.
The following describes specifics of some workplace harassment and the dire consequences of it the lawsuit claims happened at Activision-Blizzard. Reader discretion is advised.
The lawsuit comes after two years of external investigation by the state agency, which calls attention to the pay disparity between its male and female workers and specific examples of the harassment women have endured within the company, such as being subject to “cube crawls” where male employees would get drunk and crawl through cubicles in an office, often groping women as they did. There is even one example of an employee who died by suicide on a work trip with a male supervisor who brought butt plugs and lubricant on the trip after having faced sexual harassment within the company prior.
Pregnant women and mothers at Activision-Blizzard were also subject to unfair treatment, as supervisors would ignore medical restrictions and give negative evaluations to women on maternity leave. Others said they were given trouble by male employees if they had to pick children up from daycare, and were also kicked out of lactation rooms so employees could use the space for a meeting. One woman was told that she couldn’t receive a promotion because the company viewed it as a risk, claiming that if she became pregnant, she might “like being a mom too much,” which could have a negative impact on her ability to do her job.
According to the document, complaints made to the company’s human resources department, and even Blizzard President J. Allen Brack haven’t been met with satisfactory disciplinary action, and that there’s a “big lack of trust” between employees and HR the personnel working there are often close with the subjects of the complaints. This has resulted in instances of retaliation, and in female employees feeling disincentivized to report issues at all.
With the lawsuit, the DFEH is looking for compliance with workplace protections, unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for Activision-Blizzard’s female employees.
In a statement issued to Bloomberg, a company representative disputed the image the lawsuit made of Activision-Blizzard, claiming it has taken every complaint seriously and has reacted accordingly, as well as disputing the legitimacy of some of the claims entirely.
“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind,” a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard said in the statement. “We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”
“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 statement continued.
“The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today,” the company said.
News of this comes just off the heels of extensive reporting on similar issues happening at Ubisoft, which has put that company in the crosshairs of a French court complaint.