The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) says popular video game publishing studio Blizzard Entertainment and its owner Activision Blizzard have created a culture of “constant sexual harassment” and gender discrimination. , in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday that executives were aware of and / or involved. And within hours of the costume being revealed, many women have already come forward to corroborate the claims.

The details are so confusing that we’ll start with a trip warning at present. The idea that male employees organized “cube crawls” is one of the tamer allegations in the trial:

The employees almost universally confirmed that working for the defendants was akin to working in a fraternity house, which invariably involved male employees drinking and subjecting the employees to sexual harassment without repercussions. Cubes crawls in the offices of the defendants were common, and male employees pride themselves on having hangovers at work. Likewise, male employees played video games while on the job, made fun of their sex, spoke openly about female bodies, and made many rape jokes.

As a product of this “frat boy” culture, women have been subjected to numerous sexual comments and advances, unwanted touching and physical touching, and other forms of harassment. An employee noted that random male employees approached her at the defendants’ workplace and commented on her breasts. Employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors flirt with them, make derogatory comments about the rape and engage in demeaning behavior. This behavior was known to and even encouraged by supervisors, including a male supervisor openly encouraging a male subordinate to “buy” a prostitute to cure his bad mood.

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack is specifically named as being aware of and permitting this type of behavior, and an anonymous former Blizzard CTO “was observed by employees groping intoxicated female employees at events company “. World of warcraft Senior Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi is also specifically named:

Alex Afrasiabi, the former Senior Creative Director of World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment, has been allowed to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions. At a corporate event (an annual convention called Blizz Con), Afrasiabi flirted with female employees, telling her he wanted to marry them, attempting to hug them and putting his arms around them. It was in plain sight of other male employees, including supervisors, who had to step in and remove female employees. Afrasiabi was so well known for harassing women that his suite was dubbed the “Crosby Suite” after alleged rapist Bill Crosby.

We assume the DFEH meant Bill Cosby, but it’s not clear. A few even uglier things are described in the full complaint below, such as how an employee committed suicide after extreme forms of sexual harassment.

All of the alleged sexual harassment is on top of the allegations of discrimination, such as refusing to promote women – “the director said they couldn’t risk promoting her because she could get pregnant and enjoy being a mother,” reads one in an allegation – as well as wage discrimination and outright retaliation. Employees were reportedly “discouraged from complaining because human resources staff were known to be close to the alleged harassers.”

Here is the full statement provided by Activision Blizzard to The edge and other publications, which characterize the lawsuit as “irresponsible behavior by irresponsible state bureaucrats who are driving many of the state’s top companies out of California”:

We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusiveness for all. There is no place in our business or our industry, or in any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all complaints. In cases related to misconduct, steps have been taken to address the issue.

The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We were extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with detailed data and extensive documentation, but they declined to inform us of any issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and have good faith discussions with us to better understand and resolve any claims or concerns before going to court, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are disgusted by the reprehensible behavior of the DFEH to drag in the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose death has no impact on this case and without regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior shameful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they behaved throughout their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior by irresponsible state bureaucrats that are driving many of the best companies in the state out of California.

The image that DFEH presents is not today’s Blizzard workplace. Over the past few years and since the start of the initial survey, we have made significant changes to reflect the corporate culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We have amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and established a dedicated employee relations team to investigate employee concerns. . We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and have combined our employee networks globally to provide additional support. Employees are also required to undergo regular anti-harassment training and have been doing so for many years.

We go to great lengths to create fair and rewarding compensation programs and policies that reflect our culture and our company, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive measures to ensure that compensation is determined by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct in-depth anti-discrimination training, including for those who are part of the compensation process.

We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse and inclusive workplace for our employees, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It is a pity that the DFEH did not want to discuss with us what it thought it saw in its investigation.

Since the lawsuit came to light, at least five former Blizzard employees have come forward on social media to corroborate details such as the ‘cube crawl’, or that they faced sexual harassment, or that they saw it happen, or that they actually appeared anonymously in the costume. We do not embed or link to their posts without permission, as we are concerned that they may also be targeted online.

The California DFEH has also been involved in a major sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Riot Games, which initially landed at a settlement of just $ 10 million before the DFEH suggested it should be $ 400 million or more.

Ubisoft was embroiled in a huge sexual harassment scandal last year, the roots of which can go back a decade; an October poll found that a quarter of all Ubisoft employees said they had seen or experienced sexual harassment.


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