Activision Blizzard issues response around "frat boy" culture allegations
Activision Blizzard, according to a lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, has created a “frat boy” culture in the company which female employees are subjected to sexual harassment, unequal pay, and retaliation. The company, in response, has issued a large statement, covering a large amount of issues addressed in an article by Bloomberg.
After a two-year investigation by the state agency, they found that the company discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, and termination. The company's leadership consistently failed to take steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, the agency said. Activision Blizzard stated that "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... 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."
According to the complaint, female employees make up around 20% of the Activision workforce, and are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” including “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 behaviour toward female employees.” The agency alleges male employees play video games during the workday while delegating responsibilities to female employees, engage in sexual banter, and joke openly about rape, among other things. Activision Blizzard stated that "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."
Female employees allege being held back from promotions because of the possibility they might become pregnant, being criticized for leaving to pick their children up from nursery, and being kicked out of "lactation rooms" (a room for a mother to use a breast pump) so male colleagues could use the room for meetings, the complaint says. The company said that they "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..."
The suit also points to a female Activision employee who took her own life while on a company trip with her male supervisor. The employee had been subjected to intense sexual harassment prior to her death, including having nude photos passed around at a company holiday party, the complaint says. In response, Activision Blizzard has said "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."
The agency seeks an injunction forcing compliance with workplace protections, as well as unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees.
To conclude, Activision Blizzard said that they "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. 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."
As the Bloomberg article was released and Activision Blizzard retaliated, a Reddit thread was set up providing links to individuals who were working at the companies prior to the merger and after. A lot of these are related to Blizzard, however, it is noted by many of the individuals as an industry-wide issue.
Kayla Glover, part of the company's Overwatch eSport team had this to say on Twitter:
Another, Stephanie Krutsick, a Game Master and Senior Producer who worked at Blizzard then Activision Blizzard for 13 years said that;
The thread from Reddit containing these posts can be found here.
The full details of the case can be found here.
Edit: Brought to the author's attention that there are more details now available around individual's comments who have been involved. These have been added to the article.