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Activision & Blizzard Sued By California For Alleged "Frat Boy Culture"

Source: Smith Collection/Gado / Getty

The studio behind the uber-popular franchise Call of Duty is in some serious hot water.

Spotted on IGN and first reported by Bloomberg, Activision and Blizzard are being sued by California following a two-year investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. According to the lawsuit, the American-based video game publishers being accused of fostering a  “frat boy” culture in which female employees are allegedly subjected to unequal pay and sexual harassment.”

According to Bloomberg’s reporting, Activision is being accused of discrimination against its female employees at almost all employment levels regarding compensation, promotion, assignments, and termination. The state claims in its lawsuit that Activision Blizzard’s leadership did not address any of the outstanding issues nor prevent them from happening in the first place.

On Tuesday (Jul.20), California filed the suit in the Los Angeles Superior Court. It said Activision Blizzard assigns women and women of color “lower paid and lower opportunity levels,” offering lower starting pay for similar opportunities offered to male employees.

The documents describe a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace culture in the office where employees drink “copious amounts of alcohol” as they make go from cubicle to cubicle and “often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.” Male employees would show up to work hungover and “while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape.”

One instance in particular that jumps out is when a female employee who was subject to “intense sexual harassment” committed suicide on a work trip with a male supervisor who brought “inappropriate, sexual items with him on the trip.”

The lawsuit is asking “for an injunction that will force Activision Blizzard to comply with workplace protections, as well as deliver unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees,” IGN reports.

A spokesperson has responded to the allegations and said in a statement:

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. 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. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We’ve updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation focus, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.

We put tremendous effort in creating fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination trainings including for those who are part of the compensation process.

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.

We will continue to monitor this situation as it develops.

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado / Getty