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Activision Says "No Evidence" Execs Ignored Harassment

June 16, 2022

By: Joseph Allen

 
 

An internal Activision Blizzard investigation has concluded that there is "no evidence" to suggest executives at the company intentionally ignored or downplayed employee harassment. The report, which was conducted by the company's board, also states there was never a "systemic issue" with harassment or discrimination.

What are the findings of this new Activision investigation?

Since reports of a toxic workplace culture at Activision Blizzard first emerged in July last year, many employees, both current and former, have come forward to describe sexual harassment and discrimination they've faced at the company. Now, an Activision investigation has concluded that this harassment is not "widespread", nor is there any evidence to suggest senior execs intentionally ignored it or downplayed it. The report acknowledges that there are "some substantiated instances" of harassment, but that this is due to a "very small portion" of the employee population and that there is no systemic problem with harassment at the company.

 

World of Warcraft, a game on which many Activision Blizzard employees reported experiencing harassment or discrimination
Despite widespread reports of harassment within the development staff of games like World of Warcraft, a new Activision internal report is adamant that discrimination at the company is not widespread.

Along with the internal investigation, Activision also engaged the services of Gilbert Casellas, the former chair of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in order to analyze the results. Casellas found that not only was there "no...systemic harassment at Activision Blizzard" between September 2016 and December 2021 (the time frame covered by the investigation), but apparently, "the amount of misconduct reflected is comparatively low" for a company the size of ABK. It's worth noting here that Casellas did not personally investigate Activision Blizzard, nor did he speak to any employees. Instead, he looked at the data of Activision's internal investigation, ordered by the company's own board members, in order to draw his conclusions.

In its defense, Activision Blizzard says it has been the victim of an "unrelenting barrage of media criticism" which has also tarred "innocent employees" with the brush of accusation. The company describes the DFEH's lawsuit, which is just one of the lawsuits currently active against Activision, as "highly inflammatory" and "made-for-press". Activision points to initiatives it sees as positive steps towards addressing gender issues within the company, such as "improved transparency" on pay equity and a new "zero tolerance" alcohol policy, as further evidence that the company is shaping up when it comes to addressing harassment. Not that it thinks there was ever a serious harassment problem to address, of course.

 
 

What's the timeline on the Activision Blizzard harassment accusations?

Reports of a toxic workplace culture at Activision Blizzard first emerged in July 2021. After that, further allegations emerged regarding higher-ups at the company, including some leveled against CEO Bobby Kotick. Employee strikes and investigations by civic bodies followed, as did efforts by staff members to unionize (which Activision Blizzard recently acknowledged, despite allegedly attempting to union-bust in January). Amidst these allegations, and indeed likely in large part because of the fall in share prices they caused, Microsoft purchased Activision Blizzard for a record-breaking $68.7 billion earlier this year. Supposedly, Bobby Kotick will remain in his position as CEO of the company, although there have been increasingly loud whispers that Kotick will not remain in his position after the acquisition goes through (although he's extremely unlikely to be fired).

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, an Activision game
Activision reportedly attempted to union-bust Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War studio Raven Software's attempt to unionize earlier this year.

We'll have to see what lies in Activision Blizzard's future. Back in April, the Microsoft acquisition was approved by ABK's shareholders, although the deal isn't expected to go through for another year or so. When that does happen, there are some suggestions that corporate culture at ABK could improve; Activision Blizzard employees are reportedly cautiously optimistic (thanks, The Gamer) about the deal, although some are worried that they might be laid off as a result of restructuring. One thing's for sure, though: this latest internal investigation report isn't likely to sway many hearts and minds.

 
 

Activision Blizzard has been heavily criticized over allegations of toxic workplace culture and sexual harassment. These criticisms have come from several U.S. state treasurers, the heads of both PlayStation and Xbox, and a group of activist shareholders, among many others. The company is also embroiled in lawsuits, unionization disputes with staff, and conflicts with government agencies.