The State of California has filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard after a two-year investigation alleged that female employees were subjected to sexual harassment and unequal pay as part of a “frat boy culture”.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing said that Activision Blizzard fostered a “sexist culture”, where women were paid less, assigned to lower-level jobs, and promoted slower than men. They also alleged that women were sexually harassed and although HR was aware, they did not take reasonable actions to prevent it from occurring.
Women on the World of Warcraft team said that members of staff would “hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior. This behavior was known to supervisors and indeed encouraged by them, including a male supervisor openly encouraging a male subordinate to ‘buy’ a prostitute to cure his bad mood.”
Activision Blizzard issued a statement where they claimed that the lawsuit includes “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past”.
“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.
“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.”
On 24 July, Forbes reported that a number of employees are unhappy with the company’s response.
Since the news, a virtual sit-in protest arranged by guild Fence Macabre has been held in World of Warcraft. The protest has also raised over $9500 for Black Girls Code, an organisation that introduces young women of colour to computer programming and technology education.
Words by Ellen Leslie
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