On July 20th California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against the video game giant, Activision Blizzard Inc., over unequal pay, discrimination against female employees and fostering a ‘frat boy culture’ where female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment.
This lawsuit was filed after a two year investigation by the state agency. According to the complaint, the employees were subjugated to take part in “cube crawls” in which male employees would “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.”
Further accusations include holding back female employees from promotions due to the chance that they might get pregnant and instances of male employees openly engaging in sexual banter and jokes about rape.
The allegations also state that the male employees would often play videogames during work hours while delegating their tasks and responsibilities to the female employees. In one instance, the creative director of the company, Alex Afrasiabi was permitted to engage in sexual harassment towards female employees with little to no consequence from the company. Often times he would put his arm around female employees saying that he wanted to marry them. In several instances the male employees had to pull him away. According to the lawsuit, the president of Blizzard had a chat with Alex about him being “too friendly” towards his employees.
In another allegation, a female employee of Activision took her own life while on a company trip where she was subjected to intense sexual harassment.
“The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.” A spokesman for Activision Blizzard said. “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 statement continued.
In an internal email sent to the company staff by the current president J. Allen Brack said the allegations are “extremely troubling” and he will attend to these claims personally along with other leaders.
The DFEH shared findings of the investigation with Activision Blizzard this June in an attempt to resolve these issues without taking legal action. However, the three sessions of meditation with the company management fell through.
Current employees of Activision Blizzard are publicly criticizing the company. Including the lead game designer of World of Warcraft.
Hundreds of World of Warcraft players have also staged an in-game protest against the company. Players have gathered to the city of Oribos to discuss the lawsuit and to express their anger and dismay towards Activision Blizzard.
Similar instances of discrimination and workplace harassment against female employees have been reported in other companies such as Ubisoft last year and Riot Games in 2018.