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California sues Activision-Blizzard over discrimination and sexist, toxic work culture

Oh my gosh, why.

Activision-Blizzard has had a bad couple of years, and it’s about to get much worse, as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a civil rights and equal pay lawsuit against Activision and Blizzard on behalf of the company. their injured employees.

As first reported by Bloomberg LawThe DFEH alleges that its years-long investigation determined that Activision-Blizzard discriminated against women when it came to everything from salaries and incentives to promotions and executive representation. . According to the report, pregnant and potentially pregnant women are subject to specific discrimination, as are female employees of color.

It only got worse from there; The California agency said Activision-Blizzard fosters a “pervasive” office culture with jokes about rape, “crawling cubes,” sexual harassment, groping, and more. The lawsuit cites “many” complaints about this harassment that have been made no less than J. Allen Brack and shows that victims “didn’t encourage” complaints. Before World of Warcraft developer Alex “Furor” Afrasiabi has been specifically identified as a serial harasser; Afrasiabi worked for the company from 2004 to 2020, so this is clearly an issue that spans many years of the company’s history.

The most horrifying example is buried on page 15 of the complaint; DFEH deals with the suicide of a female employee who had an affair with her male supervisor and was harassed at the hands of employees who allegedly released photos of her genitals. .

The lawsuit claims damages and penalties, unpaid wages, relief, and attorneys’ fees to DFEH California. If that department sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same government agency sue Riot Games for similar harassment and discriminatory claims and refused to fully cooperate with the state investigation.

Activision-Blizzard has issue a statement, and instead of politely declining to comment on pending litigation, they essentially denied most of the claims, claiming that they had improved their work culture in the two years since. since the investigation began, and then directly and repeatedly attack the DFEH itself.

“We are sickened by the reprehensible behavior of the DFEH in making a complaint about the tragic suicide of an employee whose departure has nothing to do with this case and has nothing to do with the grieving family. her sadness. While we find this behavior shameful and unprofessional, it’s unfortunately an example of how they conducted themselves throughout their investigation. It is this kind of irresponsible behavior by irresponsible State officials that is driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”

Click to view Blizzard’s full press statement

“We value diversity and strive to promote an inclusive workplace for all. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take all allegations seriously and investigate all complaints. In cases involving misconduct, action was taken to resolve the issue.

“DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases misleading, depictions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and extensive documentation, but they refused to inform us of the problems they received. see. They are required by law to fully investigate and discuss in good faith with us to better understand and resolve any complaints or concerns prior to litigation, but they have failed to do so. Instead, they hastily filed an incorrect complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by DFEH’s reprehensible behavior in making a complaint about the tragic suicide of an employee whose death had nothing to do with the case and her grieving family. that. While we find this behavior shameful and unprofessional, it’s unfortunately an example of how they conducted themselves throughout their investigation. It is this kind of irresponsible behavior by irresponsible State officials that is driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

“The picture that DFEH paints is not where Blizzard works today. Over the past few years and continuing since the initial investigation began, we have made significant changes to address the company culture and reflect more diversity in our leadership team. . We’ve updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict focus on non-retaliation, amplifying internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including a “QUESTION List” with a hotline security and introduce a dedicated Employee Relations team for interest investigators. We have reinforced our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and incorporated our Employee Network on a global level, to provide additional support. Employees also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.

“We put a lot of effort into creating fair and equitable compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly. employees for equivalent or substantially similar jobs. We take various proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination training courses, including those that are part of the compensation process.

“We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer promoting a supportive, diverse and inclusive workplace for all, and we are committed to continue this effort in the years to come. It’s unfortunate that the DFEH doesn’t want to engage with us about what they think they saw in their investigation. “

However, support for studio workers has already begun to drip. Former Blizzard Producer Stephanie Krutsick identified himself as a victim in one of Alex Afrasiabi’s incidents and called for “lack of responsibility” on set. Former Blizzard Employee Alex Ackerman said she left her role at the company after being burned by her boss and had her pay cut, saying the company “recruits[s] predator in every sense”. Before World of Warcraft Staff Jennifer Klasing, who noted that she was not included or mentioned in the lawsuit, saying that the complaint “tracks what [she’s] seen and heard. “There are absolutely amazing, supportive and equal people at Blizzard,” she tweeted. “That is not debatable. I am still friends with many of them. But there are others who are not. And they were allowed to flourish. “

Readers will recall that the last few years of Activision-Blizzard were terminated by Mass layoffs, the The Blitzchung incident was extremely unpopular and was boycotted afterwards, dodgy stock trading, one exodus of the veteran developers (“our mentors are leaving a lot“), get fired more times, one labor uprising, one Bobby Kotick’s exorbitant salary scandal, player base collapse, shareholders vote crazy, refused to cooperate with various measuresand most recently concerns about World of Warcraft’s health as players run away for other games after a poorly received retail update and an ever-longering restriction of new blockbusters. In 2019, WAPO published a disturbing report on Blizzard pressures female employees with gift cards to use an app that tracks their fertility, from the time they have sex to the “appearance of cervical fluid”. At the time, a Blizzard VP said these invasive measures would help women have a healthier baby and focus on work “because it’s so good for women.” [Blizzard’s] business experience. “Meaning, none of this is a surprise.

The source: Bloomberg Law, litigation. Thanks to Aldristavan, GreaterDivinity, Bruno, Keldyn and Newsie.

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https://massivelyop.com/2021/07/21/california-sues-activision-blizzard-over-discrimination-and-sexist-toxic-work-culture/ | California sues Activision-Blizzard over discrimination and sexist, toxic work culture

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