walkout, CEO response and everything you need to know – .

walkout, CEO response and everything you need to know – .

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When dozens of Activision Blizzard employees organized a walkout on Wednesday it was the last update in a troubling week for the company behind Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Activision Blizzard was rocked by an explosive complaint lodged last week when the state of California accused him of workplace discrimination against his female workforce.

The complaint, filed by the Fair Employment and Housing Department, argues that the company has a “frat boy” work culture and alleges several alarming incidents of discrimination and harassment.

The costume didn’t take long to make an impact. Many employees spoke out in favor of the demands, more than 2,000 signed an open letter calling for company action, and a A walkout demonstration is scheduled for Wednesday. After initially dismissing numerous DFEH allegations, Activision Blizzard said it would launch a full investigation – and that its games would be modified to reflect the values ​​of diversity and inclusion.

Activision Blizzard is one of the largest gaming companies in the world. He owns Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot, and many other hugely popular franchises and grossed $ 2.2 billion in profits last year. Here’s everything you need to know about this colossal lawsuit.

What is Activision Blizzard accused of?

The DFEH lawsuit accuses Activision Blizzard of discrimination in the workplace. He alleges that women are unfairly paid – paid less for the same work, more scrutinized than their male peers – and subjected to considerable harassment. The agency called Activision Blizzard a “hotbed of harassment and discrimination,” in which women are routinely subjected to sexual advances from (often high-ranking) men who go largely unpunished.

An example of the claims that DFEH is making against Activision is an office ritual called “cube crawls”, in which men allegedly drank “large” amounts of alcohol, crawled around office cubicles and engaged in “inappropriate behavior” including groping. The lawsuit describes incidents, including allegations that an employee committed suicide while on a business trip as a result of a toxic relationship with a supervisor.

“Women and girls now make up almost half of gamers in America, but the gaming industry continues to appeal to men,” the suit read. “Activision-Blizzard’s double-digit percentage growth, 10-digit annual revenues and recent diversity marketing campaigns have unfortunately changed little. ”

And then the employees reacted?

After DFEH filed its complaint, Activision Blizzard responded with a lengthy statement saying the department filed a rushed and inaccurate report with “distorted and in many cases false descriptions.” [Activision Blizzard’s] pass. »In an email sent to staff, posted by Jason Schreier of BloombergVice President of Corporate Affairs Frances Townsend said the site presented “a distorted and false picture of our business, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories – some dating back more than a year ago. month “.

These statements obviously did not satisfy the employees, neither current nor former. More than 2,000 of them signed an open letter to the management of Activision Blizzard in which they criticized the company’s response. (Activision Blizzard currently has around 10,000 employees.)

“To put it plainly and unequivocally, our values ​​as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leaders,” the open letter read, according to Bloomberg. To say that this is a ‘truly baseless and irresponsible trial’ when seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences with harassment and abuse is simply unacceptable. “

The letter signed by the employees contained three demands. First, that the company issue statements that recognize the seriousness of the allegations. Second, that Townsend resign from his role as executive sponsor of the ABK Women Employees Network. Third, Activision Blizzard’s executive leadership works with employees to ensure a safe workspace to “speak up and come forward”.

Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco in October 2016.

Mike Windle/Getty

How did Activision Blizzard react?

After Activision Blizzard’s first statement, along with Townsend’s, was so emphatically rejected by employees, the company appears to be taking the lawsuit more seriously. Company CEO Bobby Kotick released a letter regarding the lawsuit and employee concerns on Tuesday.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together and to your concerns were, quite frankly, muted,” it read. “We’re taking quick action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is nowhere in our business for discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind. “

Kotick announced that a law firm, WilmerHale, will be hired to assess the company’s “policies and procedures”.

Beyond the investigation, Kotick described several changes that would take effect immediately. The company would investigate “every complaint” of discrimination and harassment, and organize listening sessions to collaborate with employees on how to improve the culture in the workplace. Activision Blizzard will also “assess the managers and executives” of the company and make the appropriate personnel changes. Finally, changes will be made to the content of the game.

“We have heard feedback from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing this content, ”Kotick wrote.


Employees at Wednesday’s walkout.

David McNew/Getty

And the walkout?

Along with the open letter signed by more than 2,000 employees, workers at the company have planned a strike Wednesday morning. Now seeking to be more collaborative with aggrieved workers, Activision Blizzard emailed staff on Tuesday saying they would get paid time off for attending the protest.

Hundreds of employees accepted the offer by setting up a picket line outside the Activision Blizzard headquarters in Irvine, California. Employees were holding signs that read “Every Voice Counts”, “Fight Villains In The Game, Fight Villains IRL” and “Nervous Male Privilege”. (When developers weaken characters in games like Overwatch, they’re called “nerfing”.)

More than 350 employees accepted the offer, reports the Washington Post. The walkout attendees acknowledged Kotick’s letter, but had four additional requests, as seen in the tweet above. These include greater transparency of remuneration and employee participation in hiring and promotion policies.


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