Female employees of Activision Blizzard faced “constant sexual harassment” and discrimination based on their gender, according to a lawsuit filed against the company by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Some of the claims in the suit are disturbing enough to require a content warning. Activision Blizzard’s initial official response called the state’s descriptions “distorted, and in many cases false,” though one of Blizzard’s executives has called them “extremely troubling” and Activision Blizzard’s CEO later called the company’s first response “tone deaf.”
In response to Activision Blizzard’s denials, what’s estimated to be almost a third of the company’s employees signed an open letter calling for Activision Blizzard’s leaders to take accountability, with many planning a walkout on July 28th. Blizzard has also pledged to remove “inappropriate references” from its MMO World of Warcraft but hasn’t specified what those references are.
Dec 14, 2021
Today in federal court, a judge said she will deny the state of California’s attempt to intervene in the $18 million settlement between Activision Blizzard and the EEOC, according to a report from Bloomberg.Read Article >
The denial prevents the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing from joining the EEOC’s lawsuit against Activision Blizzard in order to oppose the consent decree that accompanies the creation of an $18 million settlement fund. The DFEH filed the objection in October, stating that the consent decree would harm the state’s case against Activision Blizzard, asserting the decree could, among other adverse outcomes, potentially allow for the destruction of evidence necessary to the state’s case or release the company from state claims.
Dec 10, 2021
Brian Bulatao, former Trump admin and current chief administrative officer for Activision Blizzard, sent a letter to his colleagues that doesn’t outright discourage them from unionizing but also kind of discourages them from unionizing. The letter was sent after workers engaged in their fifth straight day of work stoppage in response to layoffs at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software; the creation of a strike-fund to support those who walked out; and employees collaborating with the Communications Workers of America.Read Article >
The letter, shared on Twitter by Jessica Gonzalez, reaffirms in bold letters that Activision supports workers’ right to choose whether to join a union (as interference with unionizing is a violation of federal law). But, through carefully worded phrases, the letter also seems to discourage those same efforts by implying a union would impede progress by interfering in the direct communication between employees and management, a common anti-union talking point.
Dec 8, 2021
Today, in front of Blizzard Entertainment’s Irvine, California headquarters, Christine (her last name withheld to protect her privacy) held a press conference in which she spoke about her experiences of sexual harassment and retaliation while employed at the embattled game developer.Read Article >
Content warning: This story contains discussions of sexual harassment.
Dec 7, 2021
Lisa Bloom, the celebrity lawyer who represented Bill O’Reilley’s, Donald Trump’s, and Bill Cosby’s sexual assault accusers, as well as once advising Harvey Weinstein in his sexual assault case, has announced that she will be holding a press conference on behalf of one of the survivors involved in the numerous sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination allegations against Activision Blizzard.Read Article >
The press conference, announced today in a press release from Bloom’s firm, will take place at Blizzard’s Irvine, California, headquarters and feature a statement from the victim.
Dec 6, 2021
Staff at Raven Software, known for its work on the Call of Duty franchise, are walking out in response to layoffs of a dozen QA employees on Friday, as reported by outlets including Bloomberg, Kotaku, and Polygon. Workers are demanding in a statement that “every member of the QA team, including those terminated on Friday, must be offered full time positions.”Read Article >
The individuals informed that their contracts would end on January 28th were in “good standing,” the statement says, and many who weren’t laid off are “still unsure about the status of their employment.” The statement also underscores the QA team’s importance to Call of Duty: Warzone, Activision’s hugely popular battle royale shooter, which the workers say earns an astounding $5.2 million per day. “Terminating the contracts of high performing testers in a time of consistent work and profit puts the health of the studio at risk,” the statement says.
Nov 23, 2021
In the fight against ongoing allegations of harassment, discrimination, and complaints of insufficient action to address such allegations, Activision Blizzard’s board of directors has announced that the publisher is forming a new committee.Read Article >
The press release — delivered at an extremely late hour during an employee holiday week granted hours before the release of a damning Wall Street Journal report — seemingly reaffirms the board’s support for CEO Bobby Kotick, even as major publishers express concern about and evaluate relationships with Activision Blizzard.
Bobby Kotick is still the CEO of Activision Blizzard, despite a Wall Street Journal report that detailed Kotick’s history of harassment and abusive behavior while also saying he knew about allegations and incidents of abuse within the company for years.Read Article >
Kotick has reportedly told executives that he may consider stepping down if the company can’t fix its toxic work environment “with speed,” according to the WSJ. Sources close to the situation told the WSJ that Kotick met with Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment leaders last week. His status as CEO was addressed, as executives said some employees won’t “be satisfied” until Kotick hands in his resignation. During the meeting, Kotick allegedly expressed regret for his past behavior and his handling of the harassment that went on during his 30-year reign of the company.
Nov 18, 2021
Following a bombshell Wall Street Journal report that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick allegedly knew, withheld, and even participated in harassment and abusive behavior, the company’s big console partners Sony and Microsoft are semi-privately expressing their distress. Bloomberg is now reporting that Microsoft boss Phil Spencer has now told staff he was “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” at Activision Blizzard and that Microsoft is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments” as a result.Read Article >
“The Bloomberg report is accurate,” a Microsoft spokesperson tells The Verge. Microsoft also shared a generic, completely unrelated statement about how Microsoft wants a “welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our employees at Xbox.”
Nov 18, 2021
Over 1,000 employees and contractors at Activision Blizzard have now signed and published a petition to remove CEO Bobby Kotick from the company, doubling the number of signatures since the petition was made public.Read Article >
In a surprising move, the petition goes on to list the names, titles, and departments of the workers, which could potentially expose the signatories to retaliation.
Nov 17, 2021
PlayStation leadership has asked Activision Blizzard how it will address the allegations in the shocking Wall Street Journal report about the embattled studio, according to Bloomberg. PlayStation boss Jim Ryan reportedly informed employees of the action in an email.Read Article >
“We outreached to Activision immediately after the article was published to express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims made in the article,” Ryan wrote, reports Bloomberg. “We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”
Nov 17, 2021
Activision Blizzard shareholders issued a letter calling for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick and two long-serving members of the board of directors a day after the Wall Street Journal reported Kotick not only knew about numerous cases of sexual harassment at the company but worked to cover them up.Read Article >
“As new reporting indicates, and 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,” wrote the SOC Investment Group, which works on behalf of union pension funds invested in Activision Blizzard and other companies. “We, therefore, call on Mr. Kotick to resign as CEO of the company.”
Hours after The Wall Street Journal published a shocking report alleging Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct allegations at the company, the company’s board of directors posted a statement voicing its support of the CEO.Read Article >
The board’s language shows no indication that Kotick is in danger of losing his job. “The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals,” the statement concludes.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has been aware of sexual misconduct allegations at the company for years and has had his own history of harassment and abusive behavior, according to a bombshell report in The Wall Street Journal.Read Article >
The report contains many shocking and previously unreported allegations about Activision Blizzard, which has been under intense scrutiny following the state of California’s July lawsuit alleging the company has a culture of “constant sexual harassment.” The problems appear to go all the way to the top, as the new WSJ report contains numerous troubling stories of Kotick’s awareness of problems and of his own behavior.
Nov 2, 2021
Jen Oneal is stepping down as a co-lead of Blizzard just three months after taking the role in the wake of the sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Activision Blizzard by the state of California. Mike Ybarra, a former Xbox executive who had stepped into the co-lead role alongside Oneal, will now be the sole lead of the studio, effective immediately.Read Article >
“I want you to hear from me personally that I have made the decision to step away from co-leading Blizzard Entertainment and will transition to a new position before departing ABK at the end of the year,” Oneal said in a statement on Blizzard’s website. “I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite — I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts. This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well.”
Oct 28, 2021
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick sent a letter updating employees on the further steps he and the company will take to change its image in the wake of multiple sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits. Most notably, Kotick says that Activision Blizzard will employ a zero-tolerance harassment policy, waive arbitration in sexual harassment and discrimination claims, and the billion-dollar-net-worth CEO will take a massive pay cut — earning only $62,500 per year in total compensation until the board of directors feels certain diversity, equity, and inclusion goals are met. (Earlier this year, Activision Blizzard shareholders approved a $155 million pay package for Kotick.)Read Article >
The letter outlined other goals for the company, including an investment of $250 million over ten years in programs that support diversity in the gaming and technology industries. Activision Blizzard is also committing to expanding the number of women and nonbinary people it employs by 50 percent.
Oct 26, 2021
The pandemic canceled BlizzCon 2021, and it appears that a planned online event next year from Blizzard will also be a scratch. An uncredited blog post says, “We’ve decided to take a step back and pause on planning the previously announced BlizzConline event scheduled for early next year.”Read Article >
It didn’t specifically cite a reason, but after revelations surfaced about a company culture rife with sexual harassment and discrimination, the last several months have seen an employee walkout, the departure of president J. Allan Brack, and several competing investigations.
Oct 20, 2021
Activision Blizzard discrimination case shouldn’t halt over agency feud, California argues in new court filing
After Activision Blizzard requested a stay in the discrimination case brought against it by the state of California, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed its response.Read Article >
Activision Blizzard’s request for a stay asserts that lawyers with the DFEH engaged in misconduct arising from a conflict of interest. According to the filing, some of the lawyers working on the case had previously worked on a separate case against the company when they were employed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or EEOC). Such an arrangement, Activision Blizzard argues, is in violation of a California state bar conflict of interest rule. As a result, the discrimination case should be put on hold until the conflict is settled.
Oct 19, 2021Read Article >
Activision Blizzard, facing a discrimination lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (or DFEH), has filed an application to stay that lawsuit so it can investigate claims that DFEH lawyers engaged in ethical misconduct.
Oct 19, 2021
Activision Blizzard says more than 20 employees have “exited” the company, and more than 20 other employees have been reprimanded following complaints about misconduct. The Financial Times reported that the company sent a letter to staff on Tuesday with the details, and chief compliance officer Frances Townsend told the outlet that the list included game developers and “a few” supervisors but no members of the board. Activision Blizzard later posted the letter online.Read Article >
The letter outlines a company attempt to “earn our team’s confidence that, when they speak up, they will be heard” — following a series of lawsuits accusing Activision Blizzard employees of systematic discrimination and gender-based harassment. It says the disciplinary actions followed an increase in reports about incidents that ranged from “years ago to the present.” After investigation, “in connection with various resolved reports, more than 20 individuals have exited Activision Blizzard and more than 20 individuals faced other types of disciplinary action.”
Sep 27, 2021
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Activision Blizzard have settled a lawsuit over the games company’s allegedly pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination. The news follows an EEOC suit filed Monday in California court that was based on a three-year investigation including cooperation from the games publisher. As part of the settlement, Activision Blizzard will create an $18 million fund to compensate employees who claim damages.Read Article >
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Activision Blizzard was in settlement talks with the EEOC, and the company said in a statement that it was “actively engaged in continued discussions with the EEOC.” In its complaint, the EEOC says it notified the company of its findings on June 15th after launching an investigation in September of 2018, then engaged in “extensive conciliation discussions” with Activision Blizzard. In addition to establishing the fund for restitution, the company agrees to cease any discriminatory practices (a position Activision Blizzard has committed to in past statements), retain a consultant to ensure compliance, upgrade its training and performance review processes to prevent future offenses, and submit to future EEOC audits.
Sep 21, 2021
Another high-level Activision Blizzard employee has left the company. Claire Hart, Blizzard Entertainment’s chief legal officer, announced in a LinkedIn post that her last day was Friday, September 17th.Read Article >
“The past three years have been full of unexpected twists and turns, but I feel honored to have worked with and met so many great people at Blizzard and across the Activision Blizzard businesses,” Hart said.
Sep 20, 2021
The list of government agencies investigating Activision Blizzard has grown to now include the SEC. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed the video game publishing giant, including CEO Bobby Kotick, for records pertaining to employment, separation agreements, and communications between senior executives. The Wall Street Journal report says that the SEC is investigating whether Activision Blizzard disclosed information about harassment and discrimination claims to investors in a timely fashion.Read Article >
Activision Blizzard issued a press release on its investor relations website confirming they are cooperating with regulators and authorities. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said,
Sep 14, 2021
The Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, known as CODE-CWA, has filed suit against Activision Blizzard for unfair labor practices.Read Article >
As first reported by Protocol, this new suit, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, alleges Activision Blizzard engaged in intimidation and coercive tactics as employees fought to openly discuss pay discrepancy and their desire to end forced arbitration. CODE-CWA, a digital workers rights and labor organizer, filed the suit on behalf of A Better ABK — a group of Activision Blizzard employees working toward improving working conditions at what is one of the largest video game publishers in the US.
Aug 26, 2021
Blizzard says it plans to change the name of Overwatch’s gunslinger character following the explosive sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Activision Blizzard by the state of California. The character was originally named “McCree” after Jesse McCree, a former longtime Blizzard staffer who appears to be pictured in the so-called “Cosby Suite” reported on by Kotaku.Read Article >
Blizzard hasn’t shared a new name for the character yet, and the studio will delay an in-game narrative arc where he played a “key part” due to the change. The company also committed to no longer naming in-game characters after real employees.
Aug 25, 2021
Activision Blizzard’s leaders have promised to work to make the company a safe place for women to work — but California has now accused the company of illegally “withholding and suppressing evidence” and shredding documents that it requested for its investigation (via Axios). California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) originally filed the suit in July, which accused the company of creating a frat-like culture where female employees faced “constant sexual harassment” and discrimination.Read Article >
The updated complaint can be read below, and you can read the original version here. Since the new version contains the same extremely disturbing details, it warrants the same content warning as the original.