Last week, Activision Blizzard was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DEFH), with the lawsuit bringing to light allegations against the company for widespread and persistent discrimination against and sexual harassment of employees – female employees in particular. The company’s initial response to the lawsuit was to call it “distorted and false”, which, understandable, provoked reactions from employees (among others), which has led to thousands of Activision Blizzard employees signing a letter written to the company’s leadership, criticizing said response, followed by a formal walkout being staged in protest.
Many have called out the company’s CEO Bobby Kotick over the last week, directing criticism at his complete silence with regards to the issues being brought to life, though he has finally issued a response in an open letter penned to all Activision Blizzard staff. In his letter, Kotick says the company’s initial response to the lawsuit was “tone deaf”, and apologizes that the company “did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”
“This has been a difficult and upsetting week,” Kotick writes. “I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters – and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future.
“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.
“It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”
Kotick says Activision Blizzard is ” taking swift action” to combat issues with “discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.” For starters, the law firm WilmerHale has been hired to conduct a review of the company’s policies to ensure that they “maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace.”
Five other changes are also being implemented, according to Kotick. They are briefly explained as follows in his letter:
- Employee Support. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team.
- Listening Sessions. We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.
- Personnel Changes. We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the Company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.
- Hiring Practices. Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.
- In-game Changes. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content.