Activision Blizzard accused by the Californian watchdog of having fostered the culture of the “frat boy”, a fatally toxic atmosphere

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The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision Blizzard and its affiliates on Thursday, alleging the company fostered a “frat boy” culture that resulted in lower employee wages, gender and racial discrimination and harassment sexual.

According to the lawsuit, as an example of the effects of this toxic culture, a worker committed suicide during a company trip because of a sexual relationship she had with her boss.

“All employers must ensure that their employees are paid equally and take all measures to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” department director Kevin Kish said in a statement. [PDF]. “This is especially important for employers in male-dominated industries, such as tech and games. “

Activision Blizzard, the 2008 forged gaming giant based in Santa Monica, California, makes popular computer games such as Diablo, Call of Duty, and World of Warcraft, and operates the online gaming service Battle.net.

Charges of sexism, sexual harassment and pay inequalities have harassed the video game industry for decades, as recently demonstrated by the “gamergate” in 2014 and 2015 and the harassment complaints at UbiSoft in 2020. But as the “#MeToo” movement has shown, hostility towards women at work is much higher. beyond electronic entertainment.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said The register in an emailed statement, the gaming industry takes these issues seriously and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) allegations do not reflect its current location.

We note that a Blizzard executive identified in the complaint, “so notorious for harassing women that his suite has been dubbed the ‘Crosby Suite’ after alleged rapist Bill Crosby,” appears to have quietly left the company around June 2020. A DFEH spokesperson has provisionally confirmed that this is a spelling error of “Cosby”, which turns out to be more common abuse the last name of the actor briefly imprisoned than he should be.

Typos aside, the fact is that the workplace described in the complaint did not exist so long ago. By the way, Cosby was convicted of sexual assault earlier this month in 2018 vacated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a decision based on procedural violations rather than any determination of guilt or innocence.

Long-term toxicity

The lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court after a more than two-year DFEH investigation that failed to result in a negotiated resolution with the company, stems from the agency’s mandate to protect rights Californian civilians.

The DFEH complaint [PDF] details the long-standing problems of the company and its subsidiaries that have led to a failure in the advancement of women, the inclusion of women in leadership and the management of a hostile work culture that sustains illegal harassment.

The legal record describes how the company’s workforce is made up of just 20 percent women while its top executives have remained exclusively white and male.

“Very few women reach management positions in the company,” says the complaint. “Women who advance to higher roles earn less pay, incentive pay and total compensation than their male peers, as evidenced by the defendants’ own records.”

The incidents described in the trial include multiple cases of unlawful sex discrimination, harassment and alleged racism. The consequences were fatal in one case, according to the complaint.

“In a tragic example of the harassment the defendants allowed to escalate in their offices, an employee committed suicide while on a corporate trip due to a sexual relationship she had with her male supervisor.” , indicates the complaint. “Police discovered that the male supervisor had a butt plug and lubricant on his business trip.

Another employee confirmed that the deceased employee may have suffered other sexual harassment at work before her death. Specifically, at a party before her death, male colleagues allegedly circulated a photo of the vagina of the deceased. “

According to the complaint, “employees have almost universally confirmed that working for [Activision Blizzard] was akin to working in a fraternity… “He describes an environment in which male employees routinely subjected underpaid female colleagues to unwanted sexual advances, rape jokes and other degrading behavior.

The file details the discriminatory treatment of pregnant employees and women of color. He also recounts how the company’s human resources department allegedly ignored women’s complaints and failed to keep their complaints confidential. And he describes the company’s failure to address its gender pay gap, despite having retained two separate law firms, in 2015-17 and 2018, to analyze compensation data.

Nothing to see here

In an email to The register, a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard made a lengthy statement distancing the company from the alleged behavior, insisting the company has the case in hand and criticizing the DFEH for citing the suicide of one of its used to substantiate its claim.

In correspondence with The register, Brianna wu, software engineer, entrepreneur and women’s rights advocate, has expressed skepticism that Activision Blizzard has adequately addressed sexism and harassment in the workplace.

“The gaming industry continues to insist that this has changed, but we continue to have the same scandal as Groundhog Day,” she said. “The solution is simple. We have a frat boy culture in the gaming industry. And until we fix this, it will continue to happen. But we choose to do nothing.

“How are you changing the culture? You promote women and other under-represented groups. You professionalize the culture and get rid of overt sexists. I don’t know a single woman in the gaming industry who thinks HR is on her side. “

“I’ve always been struck by the fact that we are shipping 100 million dollar fantasies to fight an unimaginable evil,” Wu added. “But when it comes to the mundane evil of abused women at work, reality is that there are few heroes to be found. ” ®



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