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Activision Blizzard is Being Sued Due to Alleged Toxic Work Culture

Abhimannu Das
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Highlights
Activision Blizzard is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
A lawsuit filed at the Los Angeles County Superior Court claims that the studio has a toxic work culture and restricts growth opportunities for female employees.
The studio has allegedly dismissed the claims stating that the claims are distorted.

Update: Former Blizzard CEO, Mike Morhaime shared his thoughts on the current situation saying "it is the responsibility of leadership to stamp out toxicity and harassment in any form, across all levels of the company. To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you." He did not directly address the accusations that have been put forward by the DFEH.

Activision Blizzard, the studio behind esports titles like Overwatch, Starcraft 2, and Call of Duty, is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), following a two-year investigation. As reported by Bloombeg, the state of California is accusing Activision Blizzard of discriminating against its female employees at virtually all levels of employment, including on compensation, promotion, assignments, and termination. It claims that Activision Blizzard has a "frat boy workplace culture", which involved male employees drinking and subjecting female employees to sexual harassment with no repercussion. The studio has made a response to the report by the Bloomberg and has dismissed the legitimacy of the report stating that there are distorted facts in the report despite the studio cooperating with the DFEH during the investigation.

Lawsuit's Claims About Activision Blizzard’s Workplace

The lawsuit filed at the Los Angeles County Superior Court claims that women are subject to “cube crawls” where male employees are intoxicated during work and engage in inappropriate behavior at the workplace.

The complaint also states that “Male employees proudly come into work hungover, play video games for long periods of time during work while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape.

Additionally, the lawsuit mentions an instance in which a female employee, already subjected to numerous incidents of sexual harassment at work, committed suicide while traveling with a male supervisor who allegedly brought inappropriate, sexual items along for the trip.

The DFEH also named former Senior Creative Director of World of Warcraft, Alex Afrasiabi, in the lawsuit claiming that he was “permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions”. It also claimed that the executive was known to engage in harassment of females "in plain view of other male employees, including supervisors who had to intervene and pull him off female employees" . Afrasiabi is no longer part of the organization as he left the organization in June 2020.

In addition to the alleged toxic work culture, the report also claims that despite having a 20% female representation in the company, most women fail to secure top positions at the company.

The lawsuit is requesting an injunction to compel Activision Blizzard to adhere to workplace protections and to compensate female employees for unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and benefits lost.

Activision Blizzard responds to the lawsuit

Activision Blizzard has responded to the lawsuit issuing a statement to Bloomberg stating that it values diversity in the workplace and offers inclusivity for everyone. The studio claims that the DFEH “includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived.

The studio claims that the picture painted by the DFEH is not the Blizzard workplace as of today. Legal procedures are pending and it remains to be seen if the allegations made by the DFEH are true or not. If proven guilty, Activision Blizzard may be required to pay compensatory damages, unpaid wage, and other costs to the DFEH.

AFK Gaming has reached out to Activision Blizzard and has requested a comment on the lawsuit filed by the DFEH. The studio’s response will be added if or when it responds.

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Abhimannu is a part of the content team at AFK Gaming and a lifelong obsessive gamer. He currently covers esports titles like VALORANT, CS: GO, Call of Duty, Fortnite, PUBG and more.