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Activision Blizzard CEO commits company to tackling discrimination

This comes after the California’s DFEH filed a lawsuit against the company alleging a sexist workplace culture.

Allie Nawrat

Activision Blizzard
Credit: nazmanm via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PeopleAnd Activision Blizzard employees criticized the company’s defensive response and attacks on DFEH.

It has been a whirlwind week for Activision Blizzard, known for making the games World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Candy Crush.

Last week, the Californian government’s Department for Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against the gaming giant that alleged it had serious issues with workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.

Activision Blizzard responded defensively to these allegations and counter-attacked the DFEH’s approach to a two-year investigation that culminated in a lawsuit.

But Activision Blizzard’s employees were not impressed by the company’s response and decided to have their say.

More than 2,000 current and former employees signed and issued a joint statement earlier this week.

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.

“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.”

Now Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has entered the fray and sent an email round to all employees late yesterday.

The statement read: “This has been a difficult and upsetting week.

“I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters – and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.

”It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.

“Ensuring that we have a safe and welcoming work environment is my highest priority. The leadership team has heard you loud and clear.

“We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment.  There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.

“We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration.”

In the same email, Kotick noted that Activision Blizzard has asked law firm WilmerHale to “conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately.”

He invited employees to get in touch with the WilmerHale team, which will be lead by Stephanie Avakian.  

Kotick emphasized that “your outreach will be kept confidential. Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated.”

Looking to the future, Kotick committed Activision Blizzard to long-lasting change with immediate actions.

These include investigating every claim by strengthening its compliance team, having more listening session, immediate evaluation of all managers and leaders at the company; “anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.”

He concluded his email by stating: “You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world.”

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