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Gaming Company Activision/Blizzard Accused of Sex Discrimination

Activision Blizzard (Activision) is one of the largest video game developers in the U.S., employing approximately 9,500 employees in Santa Monica, California. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed a 29-page complaint accusing the company of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and race discrimination.

In the complaint, the DFEH asserted the company’s workforce is “only about 20% women,” its top leadership is exclusively male and white, and women in higher roles earn “less salary, incentive pay and total compensation” than their male peers. The company allegedly pays most women less and promotes them much more slowly. In addition, the DFEH stated Activision fostered a “frat boy” work culture, subjecting female employees to unwanted sexual comments and advances such as being groped at the “cube crawls” and other company events. The male employees allegedly spoke about their sexual encounters, commented on women’s breasts, made jokes about rape, and hit on some of the female employees. The DFEH further alleged that Black women were subjected to even worse treatment and micromanaging. When one Black female employee requested time off, her manager required a one-page summary of how she would spend that time off, something no other employee was required to do. Complaints to human resources employees and executives failed to create any changes in the culture.

Activision responded to the lawsuit publicly, describing the claims as “distorted, and in many cases false.” The company claimed the DFEH failed to act in good faith to try and resolve the complaints before filing a lawsuit. The company asserted it already took steps to improve its workplace with new channels to make complaints and a new team for investigations. The company presently requires all employees to take regular anti-harassment training and asserted it has improved diversity within its leadership teams. Many employees found Activision’s public response to the lawsuit unsatisfactory and staged a walkout over the company’s discriminatory conduct. Activision’s CEO apologized for the company’s initial “tone deaf” response. The company hired WilmerHale to review its policies and procedures as well as investigate allegations of discriminatory conduct.