Activision Blizzard Sued by California for Alleged Harassment, Sexism

A lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has been filed against Activision Blizzard over allegations of unequal pay, sexual harassment, and retaliation against employees, according to new reports. Allegations of a "frat boy" culture were similarly included in the complaint levied against Activision Blizzard with the lawsuit saying there'd been instances of women being groped and unwanted sexual advances from men within the company.

The documents pertaining to the lawsuit (via Bloomberg) describe these sorts of encounters such as "cube crawls" where men get drunk at the office and go from cubicle to cubicle harassing female employees. "Constant sexual harassment" was described as a component of this "frat boy" culture, too. In one instance, the documents described a situation where a female employee committed suicide on a work trip she went on with a male supervisor.

Pay discrepancy was another key concern highlighted in the lawsuit. The lawsuit said that women made up 20% of Activision Blizzard's workforce with "very few women" holding top roles within the company. Those who do reach those roles – and those who don't as well – are said to be paid less than male coworkers.

"Like the executive ranks, women across the company are assigned to lower paid and lower opportunity levels," the lawsuit says. "Female employees receive lower starting pay and also earn less than male employees for substantially similar work. Defendants promote women more slowly and terminate them more quickly than their male counterparts. Faced with such adverse terms and conditions of employment, many women have been forced to leave the company."

Complaints from employees were passed on to human resources and executives, the lawsuit says, but Activision Blizzard reportedly failed to act on these. It did the opposite, according to the lawsuit, which says that employees were discouraged from reporting things to human resources because of personnel within the department having close relationships to those accused.

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In a statement shared with GamesIndustry.biz, Activision Blizzard criticized the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's "distorted" and "rushed" complaint.

"The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past," the statement said. "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."