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Activision Blizzard sued by California over work place sexual harassment incidents

A lawsuit has been filed by California’s government against Activision Blizzard over ‘frat boy’ work culture.

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The state of California has filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over the company’s alleged toxic workplace culture that was described as a ‘frat boy’ work place.

The state of California filed the lawsuit on July 20, 2021 against Activision Blizzard for what they state is a work place environment that is sexist and discriminates against female employees on numerous occasions, further alleging sexual harassment incidents occurred at Blizzard.

The lawsuit, reported by Bloomberg Law, states Activision Blizzard offices had a “frat boy workplace culture” that included many shocking incidents. The lawsuit alleges that male employees would “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing further alleges that Activision Blizzard discriminated against female employees by providing lower salaries, benefits, and contracts that differed from male counter parts. The suit alleges that female employees experienced numerous sexual harassment incidents working at Blizzard offices.

Some female employees who worked on World of Warcraft at Blizzard had to work with male employees who would hit on them or flirt with them during workplace encounters, the suit alleges. Some of these males were supervisors for departments too.

Another section alleges a male employee at Blizzard giving his responsibilities to a female employee to give himself more time to play Call of Duty at work.

One of the more horrifying allegations in the lawsuit states a female employee took her own life while on a company trip with her male supervisor. The lawsuit alleges the female employee experienced extensive sexual harassment at the company.

The lawsuit further alleges that male employees shared sexual explicit content during work parties, including explicit pictures amongst each other.

Many of the incidents referenced occurred at the Blizzard Entertainment division of Activision Blizzard. Blizzard Entertainment is overseen by President J. Allen Barrack, who is referenced in the lawsuit.

The full lawsuit, filed in the state of California court jurisdiction, can be read in its entirety here.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing claims that they attempted to work with Activision Blizzard to address the issues over the last few years, even as recently as this year. But the Department was not pleased by Activision’s responses and believed the company failed to adequately address the situations and inequality at the work place.

Activision Blizzard issued a lengthy comment to multiple outlets about the lawsuit. The company denies serious allegations of the suit, and even goes after California state ‘bureaucrats,’ claiming company’s are leaving California over the state’s government.

Activision Blizzard statement also directly calls out California’s lawsuit for bringing up the suicide of the female employee in the suit, stating its “disgraceful,” but didn’t clarify the incident itself as alleged in the lawsuit.

The statement ends stating that Activision Blizzard “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.

Activision Blizzard’s full statement is 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.”

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Leaker claims Activision is considering changing Call of Duty’s annual release schedule

A leaker has suggested that Activision’s annual CoD release may be coming to an end with extended cycles being considered.

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A new Call of Duty title is released every year, with multiple studios taking it in turns to bring out a new game. A new leak however has made the bold claim that Activision may be thinking about changing its release schedule and model.

It’s become a given that a new CoD game will be released in November of each year, with the likes of Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games, and Infinity Ward all taking it in turns to develop a new game.

2019 saw the release of IW’s Modern Warfare reboot, 2020 was Treyarch’s Black Ops Cold War, and this year has seen the release of Sledgehammer Games’ Vanguard.

It’s already rumored that Modern Warfare 2 is in the works for 2022, but depending on Activision’s approach, they may opt to change their release policy, starting with MW2.

Leaks seem to happen left, right, and center these days, with people able to learn a great deal of information about projects and plans, many of which turn out to be true.

The new Call of Duty rumor comes from leaker Ralph, who recently claimed that the reported Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer remaster has been canceled, and thinks that annual releases are being reconsidered.

A recent Tweet from them quite simply said: “Activision are reportedly in discussion for extending Call of Duty’s annual releases.”

As with any leak, this should be taken with a major pinch of salt. RalphsValve has recently come under scrutiny from fellow leakers regarding the accuracy of his claims.

With the rumored 2022 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 title still potentially a year out, maybe two now, things can always change, and we’d recommend taking these claims with a pinch of salt.

Furthermore, given how much this could change the Call of Duty landscape going forward, we’d also strongly recommend waiting for official confirmation from Activision before assuming this is the direction CoD will be going in the future.


For more Call of Duty news, take a look at when Vanguard and Warzone Season 1 starts.

Image Credit: Activision / Infinity Ward / Sledgehammer Games

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Activision Blizzard shareholders group call on CEO to resign

Shareholders are now calling for Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to resign and be replaced as turmoil continues.

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A group of Activision Blizzard shareholders have sent a letter to Activision Blizzard executives asking for CEO Bobby Kotick to resign immediately.

The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, was sent by a group of shareholders that own stock share in Activision Blizzard.

“In contrast to past company statements, CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of many incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault and gender discrimination at Activision Blizzard, but failed either to ensure that the executives and managers responsible were terminated or to recognize and address the systematic nature of the company’s hostile workplace culture,” the shareholders, led by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) Investment Group stated in their letter.

The news comes as the Wall Street Journal dropped a bomb-shell report on Activision Blizzard on November 17, detailing how CEO Bobby Kotick knew about the company’s harassment issues and failed to properly address the situation accordingly over the years.

The WSJ also reported that Bobby Kotick allegedly called a former female assistance and threatened her.

The letter from the group is also asking for Brian Kelly and Robert Morgado, two of the longest-serving board members on the Activision Blizzard board of directors to retire by December 31, 2021, and allow new board members to further shape the future of the company.

“After the new revelations, it’s clear that the current leadership repeatedly failed to uphold a safe workplace — a basic function of their job,” SOC executive director Dieter Waizenegger said to The Washington Post. “Activision Blizzard needs a new CEO, board chair, and lead independent director with the expertise, skill set and conviction to truly change the company’s culture. We need to really have a reset button on the board.”

Activision Blizzard has declined to comment on the shareholder letter at this point.

The company issued a statement on November 16 stating that the WSJ report was “misleading” and “failed” to report on the changes CEO Kotick has made since the initial lawsuit dropped in July.

In addition, the company’s board of directors issued their own statement on November 16 stating they remain “confident” in Bobby Kotick as CEO. Activision Blizzard’s stock has taken a drop since the news surfaced.

Activision Blizzard employee group, A Better ABK, issued their own demand calling for Bobby Kotick to be replaced and staged a walkout on November 16.

We’ll continue to update as this situation unfolds.

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Treyarch co-studio head left company as details on harassment allegations surface

New report details allegations at Sledgehammer Games and what Activision Blizzard CEO knew about it.

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Treyarch’s co-studio head Dan Bunting has left Treyarch recently, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

In an extensive report from the WSJ, the site states that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick knew about multiple sexual harassment incidents and failed to properly notify the board of directors or address such situations.

As part of their report, WSJ states that Dan Bunting, Treyarch’s co-studio lead, was accused of sexual harassment in 2017 incident by a co-worker.

An internal investigation stated Bunting should be fired for the situation, but Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick stepped in and kept him against the investigation’s results.

Bunting remained Co-Studio Head of Treyarch since then, even leading both Black Ops 4 and Black Ops Cold War development cycles at the studio.

Dan Bunting, co-head of Activision’s Treyarch studio, was accused by a female employee of sexually harassing her in 2017 after a night of drinking, according to people familiar with the incident. Activision’s human-resources department and other supervisors launched an internal investigation in 2019 and recommended that he be fired, but Mr. Kotick intervened to keep him, these people said.

Now, the WSJ reports that following their recent inquiry, Dan Bunting has left Treyarch and Activision.

It’s not clear who is currently leading Treyarch’s team. Mark Gordon was a co-studio head alongside Bunting, but no information confirmed on the new leadership team.

“After considering potential actions in light of that investigation, the company elected not to terminate Mr. Bunting, but instead to impose other disciplinary measures,” said an Activision Spokeswomen about the 2017 incident to WSJ.

The news comes as Activision Blizzard is under fire for multiple sexual harassment claims, pay discrimination, and more across the company.

WSJ also states that there were multiple incidents at Sledgehammer Games back in 2016 and 2017 where Kotick allegedly failed to notify the board of directors about allegations.

Their reporting states that a client claimed she had been raped in 2016 and 2017 by her male supervisor after drinking too much alcohol in office and work events. She reported her incident to HR, but nothing happened, per an email her lawyer sent directly to Activision Blizzard CEO.

The WSJ also reports that CEO Bobby Kotick knew about multiple different incidents at the company and failed to properly notify the board of directors about the investigations and inquiries. He reportedly even called a former female assistance and threatened her.

The Wall Street Journal’s full report is well worth a read.

Activision Blizzard has attempted to make multiple different changes to the company’s work culture to better align with requirements from the employees.

The company has listed out multiple changes, including zero tolerance policy, changes to different leadership positions, and more.

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