State of California sues Activision Blizzard over ‘frat boy’ workplace culture

Activision Blizzard is being of accused of fostering a culture of sexual harassment and unequal pay, which has led to the suicide of one employee.

The maker of Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft has been hit with a lawsuit that paints a damning picture of the company’s work environment, with allegations that Activision Blizzard not only fostered a ‘frat boy’ workplace culture but also allowed unequal pay for women and other discriminatory practices.

The lawsuit was filed, not by any individual, but by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DEFH), with a two-year investigation finding that Activision Blizzard discriminated against women in terms of salaries, assignments, and promotions.

The lawsuit describes the practice of ‘cube crawls’, where male employees would ‘drink copious amounts of alcohol’ while harassing female employees with sexual banter and jokes about rape.

Women make up only 20% of the Activision workface and it’s alleged that they have been regularly subject to groping and unwanted physical touching, as well as sexual comments and other harassment. Women of colour are described as being treated particularly poorly, and subject to micromanagement and additional scrutiny other issues such as taking time off work.

It’s alleged male employees would delegate more menial jobs to female employees, while also ensuring they were held back from promotion – apparently over concerns that they would become pregnant. Women were also allegedly criticised for picking up children from daycare and thrown out of lactation rooms so they could be used for meetings.

The lawsuit also describes how a female Activision employee took her own life while on a company trip with a male supervisor and being subjected to intense sexual harassment – including having nude photos passed around at a company event.

Former senior creative director of World Of Warcraft, Alex Afrasiabi, is described as repeatedly engaging in sexual harassment with little to no repercussions. This included having to be pulled off female employees at Blizzcon, where his suite was nicknamed the ‘Crosby [sic] Suite’.

According to a report from Bloomberg Law, Activision denies the allegations and insists that, ‘We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue’.

‘The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. 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.’

‘The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today,’ insists Activision Blizzard.

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