Gaming giant Activision Blizzard sued over ‘frat boy culture’ and widespread sexual harassment

A lawsuit has been filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against Activision Blizzard for sexual harassment and unfair treatment of women.

As reported by Bloomberg, a two year investigation has taken place and found the company discriminated against female employees.

The complaint states that women make up 20 per cent of the Activision Blizzard workforce and are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture”.

The complaint contains multiple allegations of harassment and discrimination, including “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 behaviour toward female employees”.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed an explosive lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for discrimination. Some of the details in the complaint are horrifying

— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) July 22, 2021

Activision Blizzard are behind titles such as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Overwatch.

Male employees allegedly are allowed to play video games during the day, engage in sexual banter and joke openly about rape.

Female employees, meanwhile, are not held to the same standards. They are held back for promotions for fear of pregnancy, criticised for picking up children from daycare, and are kicked out of lactation rooms so male employees can have meetings.

There are multiple accounts of sexual harassment, derogatory comments and demeaning behaviour.

The lawsuit claims that one woman allegedly took her own life on a company trip due to a sexual relationship with her male supervisor who was found by police to have brought butt plugs and lubricant on the trip. Other employee confirmed that nude photos of the woman had been shared around male colleagues at a company party.

The complaint also notes that women of colour are particularly vulnerable, consistently micromanaged, and criticised for their body language.

This excerpt about Black women working at Activision is going to haunt me.

— Zaire (@Zlanier21) July 22, 2021

Responding to the case, a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard said in a statement: “We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind.

“We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”

The spokesperson also claims the DFEH have “distorted” accounts and have been “disgraceful and unprofessional” in how they’ve conducted their investigation, particularly with regards to the suicide that has “no bearing whatsoever on this case”.

“It is this type of irresponsible behaviour from unaccountable state bureaucrats that are driving many of the state’s best businesses out of California,” it reads.

The agency behind the lawsuit is seeking an injunction to force compliance with workplace protections, plus unpaid wages, wage adjustments and benefits for female employees.

People are sharing support for women at Activision Blizzard and the wider industry

Since the report has been released, women have been sharing their experiences of working at Activision Blizzard.

It’s been 2.5 years and I still carry a lot of pain from my time at Blizzard. I stayed too long (7 years) clinging to the “Blizzard” label.

I’m finally at a company where I’m paid/treated fairly, and I want the same for my old teammates. Don’t wait ladies, you deserve more.

— Nicki Broderick (@alaurei) July 22, 2021

I left Blizzard after my boss gaslit me so badly my hair started falling out. My profit sharing, which I relied on to make ends meet, was docked due to “underperforming”, and when I went to HR to fight it with proof against his claims, I was told “maybe you are underperforming”

— Alex (@alex_frostwolf) July 22, 2021

Others in the industry have come out in support.

I would love nothing more than to just make video games as a woman without the sense of dread of knowing the industry I’ve dedicated my life to is a fucking crime scene

— StefanieGD (@Spac3Gh0s7_) July 22, 2021

blizz & activision women: systemic discrimination sucks and whether you are personally sitting on stories of hurt and trauma or not, i’m sorry that this industry is so cruel and inequitable. you deserve better. we all do.

— Katie Chironis (@kchironis) July 22, 2021

I got into a lot of arguments with the “frat” bros at both Blizzard & Twitch. There’s a reason I left both places so quickly, which sucks because there were people at both who were grinding it out because they truly cared about where they worked and the products they worked on.

— Kyle (@KyleThatKyle) July 22, 2021

A reminder that this kind of abhorrent behavior isn’t just at Blizzard, or any other major gaming company.

Almost every woman and minority in the industry has similar stories, myself included.

— sloane (@skipper) July 22, 2021

Twitch streamers have also been sharing their support and decision to boycott Activision Blizzard’s games – which is a powerful gesture considering the publisher is behind the likes of Call of Duty and Overwatch.

Men in the gaming industry (usually straight men) need a wake up call for how women are treated. The fact that women are treated as objects is disgusting. Gaming culture is full of dude bros who think that video games are a “boys club”. This needs to stop.

— iamBrandon (@iamBrandonTV) July 22, 2021

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.

— Katiechu (@PikaChulita) July 22, 2021

Will no longer be supporting any Blizzard or Activision games on stream until a clear plan of action is created to make sure workplace culture changes, women are treated fairly, and actual steps are taken to weed out these disgusting men from power in this industry.

— Dylan (8Bit) (@8bitdylan) July 22, 2021

You can read the full lawsuit here.

Rape Crisis England and Wales works towards the elimination of sexual violence. If you’ve been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland’s helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.

Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.

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