The president of Blizzard Entertainment sent an email to staff calling allegations of sexual harassment at the company “extremely troubling.” First reported by Jason Schreier at Bloomberg, J. Allen Brack wrote that “the fight for equality is incredibly important to me,” and that he has spent his career fighting against “bro culture.”
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed suit against Blizzard and owner Activision Blizzard on Tuesday, alleging a culture of “constant sexual harassment” existed at the company. The complaint describes a “frat boy culture” that included male employees drinking and sexually harassing female employees without repercussions. Brack is named in the complaint as being one of the people at the company who was allegedly aware and enabling of the behavior.
According to the DFEH complaint, “male employees would play video games during work, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and make numerous jokes about rape.”
Women were subjected to numerous sexual advances and comments, the lawsuit states, including groping and other forms of harassment:
A female employee noted that random male employees would approach her on Defendants’ work site and comment on her breasts. Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior. This behavior was known to supervisors and indeed encouraged by them, including a male supervisor openly encouraging a male subordinate to “buy” a prostitute to cure his bad mood.
Alex Afrasiabi, the former Senior Creative Director of World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment, was permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions. During a company event (an annual convention called Blizz Con) Afrasiabi would hit on female employees, telling him he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting, his arms around them. This was in plain view of other male employees, including supervisors, who had to intervene and pull him off female employees.
Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend sent an email to staff the same day as Brack, according to Schreier, but with a different tone, saying the lawsuit presented an “untrue picture” of the company, adding that it was “meritless.” Her comments echoed an official statement released by the company that called the DFEH lawsuit “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California,” and said the suit included “distorted, and in many cases, false descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”
Activision Blizzard didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on Saturday.