The state of California recently completed a two-year investigation of Activision Blizzard. Based on that investigation, they are now suing the gaming giant over allegations regarding bullying and sexual harassment, Bloomberg Law reports.
Women make up 20% of the workforce of Activision Blizzard. And the lawsuit contends that these female employees faced various types of discrimination. This included bullying, sexual harassment, retaliation, and unequal pay compared to male colleagues.
Some of the allegations mentioned in the lawsuit are disturbing to read. For example, one employee allegedly had nude photos of herself passed around the company during a holiday party. She later committed suicide during a work trip she took with her male supervisor, and the lawsuit suggests it was as a result of the intense sexual harassment she faced earlier.
Other specific allegations concern former senior creative director of World of Warcraft, Alex Afrasiabi. The lawsuit claims he engaged in “blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions,” and his behavior included trying to kiss, grope, and degrade female employees. The lawsuit alleges that his bad behavior towards women was such an open secret that his suite when he traveled for work events was named after Bill Cosby!
Beyond very specific allegations like that, the lawsuit paints a more general culture of a gaming studio that is run more like a college frat house. Male employees would allegedly “engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape.” At other times, male employees would get drunk at work “while delegating their responsibilities to female employees.”
The lawsuit came about because California determined that Activision Blizzard’s leadership failed to stop the harassment, bullying, and retaliation against female employees. Now, the state is seeking an injunction against the studio to force Activision Blizzard to comply with legally required workplace protections. Additionally, the suit seeks to address issues with unpaid wages, lost wages, backpay, pay adjustments, and benefits for female employees that have been affected by discriminatory behavior.
Activision Blizzard has responded to these allegations with a statement. Their statement claims that California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s report “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.”
However, gamers are understandably skeptical. Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier tweeted that the lawsuit allegations are in line with some of what he has heard about the company over the years.
Additionally, Activision Blizzard fired 800 employees in 2019 on the exact same day they boasted about breaking previous revenue records. And in 2020, many remaining employees complained about pay disparity.