Nearly 1,000 employees of Activision Blizzard are speaking out against the company’s “abhorrent” response to the details of the ongoing labor lawsuit going public. The response from executives denounced the lawsuit, claiming that details represented in the legal documentation were “unfounded,” “distorted,” and “untrue.” You can read the full statement here, but now the employees hurt by the company’s response and continued culture are speaking out, making it known that they will not be silenced as the lawsuit progresses.
Details on the allegations emerged last week when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, following years of investigation. The incident once more puts a spotlight on the games industry around issues of misconduct, especially against women, recalling recent revelations from publisher Ubisoft. In the case of these latest claims against Activision Blizzard, the reason for the suit centers around “violations of the state’s civil rights and equal pay laws,” specifically regarding the treatment of women and other marginalized groups. The details of the lawsuit included allegations of widespread gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and an underlining “frat-boy culture” that has even contributed to the suicide of one female employee. After the details went live, Activision Blizzard quickly scrambled to get a statement out, a statement that further added fuel to the ongoing fire resulting from these allegations.
In a new open letter to Activision Blizzard’s leadership, nearly 1,000 employees signatures have been added. The letter is in conjunction with hundreds of social media posts we’ve seen over the past weekend from current and former employees alike detailing their own experiences. The contents of the signed statement were first reported by Bloomberg, and Game Informer has independently seen the letter as well.
The full letter is as follows:
To the Leaders of Activision Blizzard,
We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for. To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.
We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry. Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.
Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action — and the troubling official responses that followed — we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse is simply unacceptable.
We call for official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault. We call on Frances Townsend to stand by her word to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement. We call on the executive leadership team to work with us on new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees — as well as our community — have a safe place to speak out and come forward.
We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind. We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.
The letter comes just days after former CEO and co-founder Mike Morhaime issued his own statement, telling former employees that he understands that he failed them when they needed him the most. His statement received mixed reactions from the industry and community members alike, with some former employees thanking him for taking responsibility. In contrast, others pointed out that he knew exactly what had been going on over the past decade.
As mentioned in our previous coverage, the report alleges that Activision Blizzard has many women dodging “unwanted sexual comments” and “being groped” during what is being called a cube crawl:
In the office, women are subjected to ‘cube crawls’ in which male employees drink copious amounts of alcohol as they ‘crawl’ their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees. Male employees 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 lawsuit, a result of over two years of investigation, also claims that HR was fully aware of the culture happening and that attempts to seek help from Human Resources were reportedly ignored. “Employees were further discouraged from complaining as human resource personnel was known to be close to alleged harassers,” details the lawsuit documents. “As a result of these complaints, female employees were subjected to retaliation, including but not limited to being deprived of work on projects, unwillingly transferred to different units, and selected for layoffs.”
The suit also details a significant pay gap between male and female co-workers, which alleges that many women are offered a similar role as a male counterpart at a much lower compensation rate. Game Informer has talked to many current and former Blizzard Activision Blizzard employees about the details of the lawsuit, with several male developers stating that they have posted their own salaries publicly to support their co-workers. The suit also details opportunities that were seen as primarily going to men first, stifling progressive growth within the company’s infrastructure. The lawsuit details specific examples of alleged mistreatment, abuse, and other disturbing behavior through the years, which can be found here.