Activision Blizzard is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DEFH). An investigation investigation held by the DEFH into the company over the last two years uncovered evidence of discrimination against female employees “in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, termination, constructive discharge and retaliation.”
The lawsuit alleges that the company routinely racially discriminates and sexually harasses its employees. “Defendants’ workforce is only about 20% women,” the filing reads. “Its top leadership is also exclusively male and white. The CEO and President roles are now – and have always been – held by white men.” Allegedly, even when women do reach higher positions in the company, they “earn less salary, incentive pay and total compensation than their male peers, as evidenced in Defendants’ own records.”
Several examples are cited of instances of sexual harassment and abusive behaviour, including unequal treatment of women in terms of compensation and supervision by superiors. Male employees are said to repeatedly engage in unprofessional behaviour, such as drinking on the job, playing video games in the office and delegating their work to female employees, routinely making jokes about sensitive issues such as rape, and more.
One instance mentioned in the suits recounts how a female employee was subject to sexual harassment for a prolonged period of time by several in the company, following which she took her own life during a business trip with a male supervisor. The lawsuit also talks about discrimination against African-American female employees, as well similar behaviour against pregnant employees.
In a statement, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said the DEFH’s lawsuit “includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”
“The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today,” the company says. “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.”