Update July 23rd 7:42AM - J. Allen Brack, president of Blizzard, has sent an email to the company's staff addressing the allegations in the California lawsuit. In the email, posted by Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, Brack says he "disdain[s] 'bro culture'" and that the allegations are "extremely troubling". He also says that he and his leadership team will be meeting with staff members to "answer questions and discuss how we can move forward". Brack describes the behavior outlined in the allegations as "completely unacceptable" and says that equality is "incredibly important" to him. Original story follows below.
Original story: The State of California has sued Activision Blizzard, citing a pervasive internal work culture of harassment. According to the lawsuit, female employees at Activision Blizzard are regularly subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination.
Why is Activision Blizzard being sued?
This news comes via Bloomberg Law. In the full text of the lawsuit, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing says it's bringing the lawsuit to "vindicate the rights of...female employees and the public interest of the State". The suit alleges a number of pretty nasty practices within Activision Blizzard, such as "cube crawls", in which male employees physically crawl through cubicle workspaces and sexually harass female employees. Some women working on World of Warcraft say male employees would make inappropriate jokes and derogatory remarks openly.
The lawsuit also alleges that male employees "engage in sexual banter, and joke openly" about some pretty horrifying topics. Female employees say that the company has refrained from promoting them due to fears they'd become pregnant. The employees also allege Activision Blizzard has criticized them for leaving work early to retrieve children from daycare, and forced them to vacate lactation rooms to make way for meetings consisting of male employees. Most disturbingly, the suit references a female Activision Blizzard employee who committed suicide on a trip with her supervisor. Said employee had apparently been the victim of sexual harassment prior to her death.
It's worth noting here that the lawsuit specifically calls out the Blizzard portion of Activision Blizzard. World of Warcraft and the team working on it are mentioned by name; although no individual employees are identified, it's clear this isn't just referring to the corporate wing of Activision but to the development arm of Blizzard. Although Activision says these claims don't represent "the Blizzard workplace of today", there's no mention of these claims being historical or any sense on the State's part that this isn't an ongoing issue.
Harassment sadly seems commonplace in the gaming industry
Unfortunately, it's not just Activision Blizzard, either. Just last week, French union Solidaires Informatique launched a lawsuit against Ubisoft over its alleged toxic workplace culture of harassment and discrimination. Lab Zero owner Mike Zaimont has also been the subject of sexual harassment allegations, with employees alleging that he would make inappropriate comments about their appearance or shame them for their choice of clothing. There was also the discrimination lawsuit brought against Riot Games in 2019, which is still ongoing.
In response to the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard said it "[values] diversity and [strives] to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone". The company says it's taking the allegations laid out in the lawsuit seriously and will investigate all of the claims. Activision Blizzard also says that in cases where misconduct was reported, "action was taken to address the issue". The studio goes on to accuse the State of California of including "distorted, and in mnay cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past". The Department of Fair Employment and Housing is seeking damages, injunctive relief, and costs.