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California Files Lawsuit Against Activision Blizzard, Alleging Sexual Harrassment, Unequal Pay And 'Frat Boy' Culture

Joseph Bradford Updated: Posted:
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In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the California Department of Fair Employment And Housing (DFEH) is alleging Activision Blizzard has fostered a "frat boy" culture which saw female employees contending with unequal pay, sexual harrassment and more. This filing comes after a two-year long investigation, according to Bloomberg Law.

The World of Warcraft and Call of Duty giant are being accused by the DFEH for discrimination against female employees at the company. The lawsuit alleges that Activision Blizzard disciminated against female employees, from equal pay, promotions within the company, assignments and more. The complaint also alleges that Activision Blizzard fostered a "frat boy workplace culture," as relayed by Bloomberg, which included an environment where men would drink "copious amounts of alcohol as they 'crawl' their way through the various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees."

The complaint continues, stating that "[m]ale employees would proudly come into work hungover, play video games for long periods of time during work while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape."

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing also alleges that female employees were denied promotions due to the possibilty of them becoming pregnant. The lawsuit also alleges that female employees were criticized for having to pick up children from day care, or even being forced from lactation rooms in order for male colleagues to have meetings. 

Activision Blizzard, in a statement to IGN after the report broke, denied the claims as well as the accuracy of the claim and investigation by the State of California, stating that the "picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today." Here is the statement in its entirety:

"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."

The lawsuit seeks to have Activision Blizzard pay damages, unpaid wages, relief and attorneys fees, as well as force compliance with proper workplace protections. 


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore

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