Why is CA suing Activision Blizzard? Gaming company slammed over 'horrifying' allegations

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing accused Activision of workplace harassment, discrimination and failure to address the issues


                            Why is CA suing Activision Blizzard? Gaming company slammed over 'horrifying' allegations
California investigated Activision Blizzard for discriminating against female employees at nearly all levels of employment (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) on July 20 filed a lawsuit against gaming company Activision Blizzard in the Los Angeles Superior Court. The suit comes after a two-year investigation into Activision, which the company says it fully cooperated with. Among other things, the DFEH accused Activision of workplace harassment, discrimination and a failure to address the issues, which Activision has called "false".

The suit against Activision is the first against a gaming company, with the industry having a long history of alleged harassment and discrimination. It is, however, not the first major company to be put under the spotlight for such claims. Fox News was slapped with a historic $1 million fine on June 29 by the New York City Human Rights Commission for the same allegations. In March, we also reported on the lawsuit against Amazon, filed by an employee who claimed racial and sexual harassment. We also covered the accusations of harassment levied against Amir Ben-Yohanan, an LA-based startup CEO. 

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As these stories show, sexual harassment and discrimination aren't industry-specific, it's a widespread issue plaguing numerous industries world over. Thanks to the #MeToo movement, many of these stories have now come to light. The gaming industry though remains an outlier in this area. For years, there have been media reports levied against particular companies, but few have ever gone to court. Activision is one of the first to hold that distinction, thanks to the DFEH. 

People carry signs addressing the issue of sexual harassment at a #MeToo rally outside of Trump International Hotel on December 9, 2017 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Why is Activision being sued?

The lawsuit against Activision stems from a lengthy investigation by the state into the company's HR policies. The state investigated Activision for discriminating against female employees at nearly all levels of employment. It further accuses the company's leadership of failing to address the issues or preventing them from occurring. The DFEH accuses Activision of assigning women "lower paid and lower opportunity levels" with lower starting pay as compared to their male counterparts. 

Some of the accusations leveled against Activision are truly stunning. The DFEH says the company "promote women more slowly and terminate them more quickly," and that very few women "ever reach top roles." It's not just casual sexism though, the DFEH even alleges a "frat boy culture" exists at the company. Amongst other things, the suit says men "come into work hungover while delegating their responsibilities to female employees." Furthermore, the suit says male employees "talk openly about female bodies and joke about rape."

The suit goes on to say the culture has led to numerous cases of unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment and groping. In fact, the culture is so toxic, the DFEH says it led to one female employee dying by suicide "during a business trip with a male supervisor". The massive 29-page lawsuit makes several such accusations and asks the court to force Activision to pay "compensatory and punitive damages, unpaid wages and other remedies." 

Demonstrators participate in the #MeToo Survivors' March outside the CNN building in response to several high-profile sexual harassment scandals on November 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

In response, Activision has slammed the DFEH. In a statement to IGN, the company said, "The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years... we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams." It also says, "The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us... Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court."

Social media brands Activision 'horrifying'

While Activision may have claimed the suit has false claims, social media doesn't seem to be buying their version of the story. News of the lawsuit has quickly gone viral, and the company is now facing a massive backlash. "There’s really nothing more to say about the lawsuit other than it’s absolutely horrifying and disgusting. There needs to be accountability at Activision’s highest executive level for this," one account said. One woman tweeted, "Unfortunately, for women-especially us black women-the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard isn't even remotely surprising. Welcome to our reality. I hope those women win their lawsuit."



 



 

 

One user slammed their statement, tweeting, "This reply from Activision Blizzard is embarrassing word salad." One person commented, "Yeah, I'm never touching an Activision game any time soon after reading this. This is f------ DISGUSTING. Jesus Christ." One user tweeted, "There is a ton of extremely bad stuff in this Activision Blizzard lawsuit but this may be one of the horrifying things I’ve ever read in a doc like this."



 



 



 

 

"Activision genuinely may be worse than EA I don’t know how anyone could look themselves in the mirror after treating people like this," one person said. Another tweeted, "This is so foul. so much horrible stuff alleged in this Activision lawsuit. Activision has a LOT of answering to do."



 



 

 

The company is reportedly made up of 20% of female employees. For decades, the gaming industry has been known to be male dominated, so this statistic should come as little surprise. It's something the DFEH has also noted. "Sexism has plagued the male-dominated gaming industry for decades, and increasingly so in recent years," they wrote in their suit. It's unclear when the case will be heard in court, but whenever it does, expect it to dominate the news. 

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