A California state agency is suing video game giant Activision Blizzard over a toxic workplace culture that regularly discriminates against and degrades women. The company stands accused of paying its female employees lower wages for similar work, and allowing for a work environment that regularly condones harassment of those same employees by its overwhelmingly male workforce.
On July 20, 2021, The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging a “frat boy” culture that has resulted in harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against female employees.
A History of Misconduct
The video game industry as a whole is no stranger to misconduct. And Activision Blizzard has its own history of violations when it comes to the welfare of its female employees. This includes a case in which a female employee who was in a relationship with her male supervisor ended up committing suicide after nude photos of her were circulated around the workplace by other employees.
The DFEH’s investigation has resulted in countless instances of wrongful harassment and discrimination against women. For instance, one female employee who worked for Activision Blizzard for three years said she was paid less than her male counterpart despite the fact that she was hired at the same time and held the same position. She also received a message on Facebook asking her what kind of porn she was interested in watching. Another female stated that she had been pressured into having sexual intercourse by a higher level executive because she “ ‘deserved to have some fun’ after her boyfriend had died weeks earlier.”
While the example above can be seen as more extreme than other accusations, it highlights the toxic work environment that Activision Blizzard had ultimately let happen. Add in the consistent reports of women making less money than their males counterparts, and you get a recipe for disaster. The company has clearly broken many common workplace practices that other reputable businesses uphold every day.
The Activision Blizzard Response
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the company released the following statement: “The picture DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today… There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind… In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”
According to the statement, the company believes that the State of California failed to properly discuss the accusations with them, and is especially upset that the instance of employee suicide was brought up in the filing. Ultimately, according to Activision Blizzard, the state’s lawsuit is unfounded since they’ve worked hard to clean up their act over the last year. We’ll see how this ends up in court.
On August 24, 2021, the DFEH updated its lawsuit to include temporary workers as representative plaintiffs and allegations of further misconduct against the company, including shredding important documents that may be related to the lawsuit.
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