Activision Blizzard, the publishing giant behind everything from Call of Duty to Overwatch, is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing over a “frat boy” workplace culture that it alleges has led to years of harassment and abuse targeting the women in its workforce.
Content warning: suicide
Bloomberg reports that the suit, filed on July 20, is the culmination of a two-year investigation into the publisher by the Department, which says that Activision Blizzard’s “compliance with California’s broad workplace protections is long overdue”.
“To enforce such compliance”, the case says, “DFEH brings this government enforcement action seeking to remedy, prevent and deter [Activision Blizzard’s] violations of state’s civil rights and equal pay laws.”
While pointing out the lack of women in leadership positions at the company, and the difficulties they have faced in gaining promotions, the suit also highlights enormous pay discrepancies at the executive level between women and men, and says women are not only promoted more slowly, they’re also terminated “more quickly than their male counterparts”.
The company’s “frat boy” workplace culture is also mentioned, as a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”. Some of the examples provided include:
In the office, women are subjected to “cube crawls” in which male employees 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. Male employees proudly come into work hungover, play video games for long periods of time during work while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies and joke about rape.
Female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, including having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors and being groped at the “cube crawls” and other company events. High-ranking executives and creators engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.
In a particularly tragic example, a female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who had brought butt plugs and lubricant with him on the trip.
The suit also accuses Activision Blizzard of failing to act on “numerous complaints” concerning harassment, discrimination and retaliation from male colleagues over those complaints, and says employees affected were “further discouraged from complaining as human resource personnel were known to be close to alleged harassers”.
The DFEH has brought the suit seeking an injunction that will force Activision Blizzard to not only begin complying with state workplace laws, but also address “unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees.”