The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in California filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard after a two-year investigation. The investigation alledly revealed that female employees were repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment, including groping, inappropriate comments, and unwanted advances. This was allegedly due to the company's "frat boy work culture." In addition, the office alleges that women were treated unequally at Blizzard: they earned less than men in the same position and found it harder to advance.
As we read in the official document:
"Women were subject to numerous sexual comments and advances, groping and unwanted physical touching, and other forms of harassment, [...].
Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior."
The report prepared by the Department also cites the tragic story of one female employee who committed suicide while on a business trip. The DFEH suspects that this tragedy was linked to bullying and harassment at work. There were also racist incidents in the company and black female employees were said to be "extremely vulnerable to discrimination".
Any complaints made to management were unsuccessful and were to be met with disregard, and employees/women who complained to supervisors were "retaliated against, including but not limited to being stripped of work on projects, 'inadvertently' transferred to other units, and earmarked for layoffs."
A company spokesperson responded to the allegations and said that they presented an incomplete and distorted picture of the situation (via PC Gamer):
"[DFEH - ed. note] was required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court."
In the further part of the statement we can read that the company is outraged by the use of a suicide death of an employee in the lawsuit, as the situation, according to the spokesman: "has no connection to this case and is disrespectful to the bereaved family”. In the statement we can also read that in recent years the image of work culture at Activision Blizzard has improved significantly:
"Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we've made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams."
The matter will now be taken to court. The DFEH will seek damages and back pay as well as injunctive relief on behalf of former male and female employees. Blizzard will try to prove that the accusations are baseless, but it is certainly already paying a high price in terms of PR damage. Time will tell who is right in the dispute.