California sues Activision Blizzard over sexist, harmful workplace culture

The state of California is suing Activision Blizzard over some of the most toxic workplace sexual harassment allegations leveled against the game industry, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The agency is seeking an injunction to force compliance with workplace protections, and for the company to settle up on unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for the women making the accusations.

The lawsuit (unearthed first by Bloomberg Law) contains some of the most shocking descriptions of sexist and toxic workplace culture that we’ve covered on Gamasutra.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing described the company as having a “frat boy” culture, and alleges that a largely male workforce would regularly deny promotions to female employees, engage in sexual banter, and joke openly about rape in the workforce.

Women working at Activision Blizzard allege that they weren’t promoted because of the possibility they might become pregnant, were criticized for picking children up from daycare, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male employees could use the room for meetings.

That only scratches the surface of the allegations. The suit alleges that a female Activision employee died by suicide while traveling for work with a male supervisor. According to the lawsuit, she had suffered intense sexual harassment at the company, and fellow employees allegedly passed nude photos of her around at a company holiday party.

We’ve reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment, and will update this story if they respond.

Update: Activision Blizzard has publicly responded to the allegations, and argues in a statement given to IGN that it has already taken action to address the issues of misconduct disclosed in the lawsuit. Beyond that, the Blizzard statement makes the argument that the lawsuit “includes distorted, and in many cases false descriptions of Blizzard’s past” and that, given “significant changes to address company culture” in the past several years, “the picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.” 

A portion of those comments can be found below, while the full statement can be read on IGN.

“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. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”

“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. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. “

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