Please note that the news below contains references to sexual harassment and suicide, you may wish to read something else.
The State of California has filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard claiming that female employees were “lower paid” and had “lower opportunity levels”. They also claim that the studio fosters a “‘frat boy’ culture” with male employees drinking “copious amounts of alcohol” and that they “often engage in inappropriate behaviour toward female employees.” It is claimed that the female employees have had to leave the studio as a result.
Here’s more from the lawsuit.
Female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, including having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors and being groped in “cube crawls” and other company events. Hight ranking executives and creators engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions. In a particularly tragic example, a female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who had bought butt plugs and lubricants with him on the trip.
You can read the full lawsuit here but many of the revelations will be sickeningly familiar: High ranking executives ignoring the problem, the HR department being close to the harassers and not acting on reports, and nude photos passed round the office It is also claimed that women of colour were treated particularly badly, it is stated that one such woman had to submit a one page summary of how she was going to use her time off, something no one else had to do.
The lawsuit follows a two year investigation in to the company. Activision Blizzard have released a statement stating that the DFEH had “rushed to file an inaccurate complaint,”. I’m not sure many people would count two years as a “rush”, but that’s what they are suggestion. You can read their full statement below.
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 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. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.
The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We’ve updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation focus, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.
We put tremendous effort in creating fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination trainings 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 people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It is a shame that the DFEH did not want to engage with us on what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.
Bloomberg report Jason Schreier has tweeted “Truth is, I’ve heard several stories about sexism and sexual misconduct at Blizzard over the past few years.”
Meanwhile, Ubisoft have been hit with fresh claims of mismanagement, in particular relating to the development of Skull & Bones. “The toxic culture permeating the Singapore studio is in no small part responsible for most of the production issues—reboots, rebrands and re-reboots—that have plagued Skull & Bones for a decade,” commented one former developer, with another saying “Since the beginning, this project has always been driven by fear.”
A report by Kotaku states that three sources have said that “Ubisoft Singapore’s studio is still desperately in need of reform” as senior management surround themselves with “yes men”.