California’s civil rights agency called Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has sued Activision Blizzard for systemic discrimination against its female employees, who make up around 20% of the company’s entire workfore.
According to the complaint filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, women at Activision Blizzard are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture.” That culture allegedly manifests itself in sexual harassment, unequal pay, and retaliation.
The lawsuit is the culmination of a two-year investigation by DFEH. Here’re some instances the agency identifed of discrimination against women in workplace:
- women being steered into lower levels of the company’s hierarchy, with women of color being particularly vulnerable;
- “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 behavior toward female employees”;
- male employees playing video games during the workday while delegating responsibilities to their female co-workers;
- sexual banter, jokes about rape and other demeaning behavior;
- not promoting women because they might become pregnant; female employees being kicked out of lactation rooms so male employees could use these rooms for meetings;
- in one tragic instance, a female employee was subjected to intense sexual harassment, including having nude photos passed around at a company holiday party. This resulted in this employee committing suicide while on a company trip with her male supervisor.
DFEH seeks an injunction that will enforce compliance with California’s broad workplace protections, as well compensatory and punitive damages and unpaid wages.
Activision has already released a statement saying that “The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.” The company calls DFEH “unaccountable State bureaucrats” and their report an “inaccurate complaint” containing “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”
The publisher has actually aknowledged the suicide of an employee mentioned in the complaint, but insisted it had “no bearing whatsoever on this case.”
Activision Blizzard intends to prove in court that it is “an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace.”