Activison-Blizzard CEO Sets Workplace Harassment Goals Tied to His Pay

The worker movement calls the new policies "a win," but says there's still demands that haven't been met.

Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has released an extensive statement regarding the state of the company following the State of California’s lawsuit alleging it cultivated a “frat boy” workplace culture that made way for sexual harassment and discrimination. The statement outlined five new policies that will be implemented company-wide in an effort to stomp out harassment, increase diversity in its workforce, and ensure pay equity.

Kotick’s letter began with a general statement to workers at Activision-Blizzard, then was followed by a bulleted list of new initiatives that will become standard within the company in response to the lawsuit and demands of workers to improve working conditions.

  • First, the company is enacting a zero-tolerance policy for harassment. This means that while previous instances of harassment were sometimes met with a verbal or written warning, any substantiated harassment case will be met with immediate termination. Kotick notes that some areas around the world may have local laws that restrict these measures, and in those cases, the company will “apply the highest permissible standards and the strongest possible discipline.”
  • Second, Kotick says the company will be increasing the percentage of women and non-binary employees by 50% and will be investing $250 million toward the cause. According to the letter, the goal is to have women and non-binary workers make up more than one-third of the company within the next five years. On top of this, Activision-Blizzard will be investing $250 million over the next ten years to initiatives that bolster underrepresented communities within the games industry. This will include career opportunities in ABK Academy, such as mentorship and apprenticeship programs leading to game dev jobs. More information on these initiatives will be released in the coming months.
  • Kotick also says the company is waiving obligations for arbitration for future sexual harassment and discrimination claims. This was a major point of contention and part of the demands from Activision-Blizzard workers about changes they wanted to see in the company following the lawsuit.
  • Activision-Blizzard will be reporting the results of its pay equity analysis to be more transparent with wages and demographics for its employees. Helping to ensure that pay across the company is kept equal relative to position.
  • Finally, the company will be releasing quarterly progress updates on all of the above, as well as making them a pillar of its annual reports to shareholders.

Kotick ends his letter saying he will be taking a pay cut until the Activision-Blizzard board has determined the company has “achieved the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described above.” Kotick says he’s asked the Board to reduce his pay to the lowest amount California law will allow for people earning a salary, which is $62,500. He also says he won’t be receiving any bonuses or equity during this period.

ABetterABK, the movement of workers within the company who are pushing leadership to acknowledge the harassment and put systems in place to prevent it, responded to Kotick’s letter. The group published a statement on Twitter calling it “a huge win.” However, it notes it still demands the investigation into these claims be done under an “unbiased third party,” rather than WilmerHale, which is known for its anti-union stance.

While today was a huge win for us, we remain vigilant and continue to push for other industry practices that need to change. We still stand firm by our demand that the investigation must be done by an unbiased third party, of which WilmerHale is not one. We continue to push for light to be shed on other industry practices, like crunch, which can be especially harmful [to] the health of game devs, and especially the health of disabled and chronically ill game devs. We continue to give our unwavering support for our colleagues across the industry who are also pushing for change. @ABetterUbisoft still has demands that are not being met. Together we will be the change.

In the months following the lawsuit, there have been walkouts, calls for the resignation of higher-ups within Activision-Blizzard, and the firing of around 20 employees as part of investigations. On top of this, there have been reports of threats to organizing employees and shredding of evidence that would have indicted those who were being accused of abuse within the company.

On the game side, both World of Warcraft and Overwatch have been updated to remove references of employees named in the lawsuit.