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Activision Blizzard employees hit back against company’s defense of sexist workplace allegations

The state of California is suing Activision Blizzard for having an alleged sexist culture.

Allie Nawrat

Activision Blizzard
Credit: SITTHIPHONG via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PeopleThe company’s defensive response has spurred a backlash from employees, some of whom have stopped working in protest.

Last week, the state of California announced it was taking gaming giant Activision Blizzard, known for making video games like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, to court over allegations of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.

The Californian government’s Department for Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)’s court filings noted that the gaming company had a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace culture” where male employees regularly bantered about their own sexual encounters and joked about rape.

Activision Blizzard responded to the lawsuit defensively, something which has not pleased many of their employees.

In a statement, which they shared with UNLEASH, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson wrote that “the picture DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.”

The spokesperson also counter-attacked the DFEH, saying: “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 spokesperson continued, saying that the DFEH was required by law 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.”

Following on from this statement, Activision Blizzard president J Allen Brack, who is personally named in the lawsuit, sent out an email to employees, according to Bloomberg.

Brack referred to the allegations as “extremely troubling” and said he would be “meeting with many of you to answer questions and discuss how we move forward”.

However, the company’s executive vice-president for corporate affairs Frances Townsend, who has only been in the job since January 2021, doubled down on the original defensive message, as reported by Forbes.

In an email to employees, Townsend wrote: “We cannot let egregious actions of others, and a truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit, damage our culture of respect and equal opportunity for all employees.”

Now Activision Blizzard employees are having their say.

While some individuals have publicly denounced the company’s response on Twitter, now at least 2,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees have signed and issued a joint statement that focuses on the corporate response to the allegations.

The statement, which was seen by Forbes, states: “We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for.

“To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.

“Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action — and the troubling official responses that followed — we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests.

“To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit,” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse, is simply unacceptable.”

“We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind.

“We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.”

There are also reports that many departments, including the World of Warcraft designer team, have stopped working in protest against the allegations in the lawsuit and Activision Blizzard’s corporate response.

Jeff Hamilton, World of Warcraft senior systems designer, tweeted:

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