The State of California is suing Activision Blizzard over allegations of workplace discrimination

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Activision Blizzard is facing a lawsuit from the State of California regarding claims of inequality in pay and workplace discrimination against women working for the company. California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing agency (DFEH) has filed a 29-page legal document against Activision, which is headquartered in California, alleging that there is a "rampant frat boy workplace culture" that has lead to harassment, dismissal of complaints made to human resources regarding discrimination, and more, with even evidence to prove such, following the conclusion to a two-year-long investigation.

The DFEH found that women employed at Activision Blizzard made less money than male employees with the same job title or for the same amount of work, in addition to finding that women were fired on a much more frequent basis compared to men, despite the former only making up around 20% of the company's workforce. Other claims include that Activision's higher-ups are complicit in and take part in disrespectful "cube crawl" events, where male employees will, "drink copious amounts of alcohol as they "crawl" their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees".

The goal of the lawsuit is to make Activision Blizzard comply with California's labor code, and adhere to equal pay laws within the state via an injunction, as well as seeking relief payments for unpaid wages and damages for the affected women defendants who have worked for or still work for Activision Blizzard.

Following the filing of the suit, an official statement from Activision was sent to media outlets, claiming that the allegations were "distorted, and in many cases, false descriptions of Blizzard's past", adding that they have been cooperative with the DFEH throughout the past two year's worth of their investigation. From Blizzard's perspective, the company has, supposedly, "made significant" changes in recent years and have implemented "anti-harassment training", among other preventions.

We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.

The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and 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, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. 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 picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We’ve amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.

We put tremendous effort in creating fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination trainings including for those who are part of the compensation process.

We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It is a shame that the DFEH did not want to engage with us on what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.

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Xzi

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Other claims include that Activision's higher-ups are complicit in and take part in disrespectful "cube crawl" events, where male employees will, "drink copious amounts of alcohol as they "crawl" their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees".
Yeah I can totally see Bobby Kotick doing this. The man was in Epstein's black book.
 

jimbo13

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Very skeptical, I am not a fan of the State claiming a grievance. When a crime has been committed I am a firm believer of "Show me the victim" and it seems as it should be said victims bringing that lawsuit and not the state.

Civil cases are rife with abuse as they don't have a high burden of proof as a criminal case would.

50/50 on if it's Woke political bullying or a legit issue.
 

FAST6191

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That legal document is quite amusing, and seems the spectre of gamergate looms larger than I thought for some if it is referenced in the first page. Would be amusing if Activision Blizzard respond with the FBI document in some capacity. IGN being cited (their history of it - https://www.ign.com/articles/2010/10/01/the-history-of-activision ) also amuses but I suppose trade rags get cited for things all the time, just not used to seeing it.

Curious to see the full legal rebuttal as many of the cited incidents are not especially qualified, and I would have thought terminating women more commonly would have been flanked by without cause or other sufficient justification given phrases like "substantially similar work" in the line prior. Lack of claims of constructive dismissal (it is a phrase mentioned in the relevant aspects of law part) is quite odd for something like this too, though I don't know how hard they are to make in California so who knows.

The substantially similar work thing has me curious. Would want to know more there and a breakdown of things involved.

Cube crawl sounds lame, but bar crawls are as well; wasting valuable drinking time with all that walking. That said in and of itself (there are things in later lines which if true are grounds for something) I don't see the issue beyond it speaking to a poor work-life balance, however that seems to be most of tech and even more so in games where people generally seem to take a pittance because games is cool and there are a line of people out the door to replace them, some even with experience.
A lot the document is also heavy inference and association phrasing and precious little in any kind of mens rea (legal principle of guilty mind); if you are doing the means, motive, opportunity, establishing fact patterns and all the other things day 2 law students are supposed to be looking for then sorely lacking. Might make for a nice emotive argument but little of substance. Or if you prefer the old adage of "When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on you side, pound the table." is worth keeping in mind. What would be called puffery in sales and some selective use of statistics is also abundant in this (the percentage of games market as women vs percentage of activision blizzard's market as women would be a fairly interesting example), the CEO and president comment also somewhat selective (assuming it even matters).

"An internal investigation into the human resource unit noted there was a "big lack of trust" and that "HR not held in high regard". How amusing. Though as a general rule HR are never your friends; they are there to figure out who to fire with minimal cost to the company and also to insulate the company as best they can from... arguably things like this. More generally "who pays them?" is a question you always want to ask as that way the incentives are found.

"the manager commented that they could not risk promoting her as she might get pregnant and like being a mom too much"
Now I know that is what people think (basic business logic there really) but I would have thought even the knuckle draggers of manglement since about current space year minus 40 or so would know not to voice that to the subject of that... small mercy for Activision Blizzard it was not in a company email I guess and get to play who said what if in court.

Some I am curious to see if they are general lame business practices (dangling the carrot of promotion and whatnot to get a good employee on the cheap and running them into the ground, see also 90%+ of retail work) or actual discrimination. Similar thing for offered pay (employer wants to give them as little as possible, employee wants the most they can get aka basic wage negotiation. It is also noted a lot of women won't negotiate as hard and have different risk analysis and approaches to conflict), though if they are bound by law to make it equal in outcome regardless (debatable as a concept if you ask me) then I guess there is that.
Said same seemingly assigned to lesser roles is an interesting one. Does potentially trouble substantially similar work claims (whatever phone game is on tick over vs latest COD) but I have no particular thing to go either way there.
Lack of promotions despite alleged better performance would also be something to get some further details on.

"male employees proudly came into work hungover. Similarly, 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."
And? Sounds like a boring place to work but not particularly seeing cause for action in this case. Painting a scene is a thing you can do I guess. Now a few lines after there would be some potential incidents for harassment claims or some flavour of hostile work environment, especially if compounded by HR of dubious quality to some ideal standard (again they are not your friend and never were or will be, give or take some hypothetical where they are employee funded).

"who were not "huge games" or "core gamers" and that were into the party scene were treated as outsiders"
Again boring place to work but I do find workplaces do have a culture, and one wonders if this is simple mismatch on that front. I have done some stuff for car garages before... surprisingly they are often places where people like their cars and other motorised fun. I think we can all agree quite unexpected that such a thing as quoted would exist for a gaming company.

"Crosby". One of a few typos but would speak to some lack of attention to detail there.

The earlier thing about a suicide on a business trip is expanded upon a tiny bit later (section 48, or line 17 of page 15). However two at this point separate incidents appear to be connected as part of it, which might be relevant but at this point is not the basis for much.


Anyway if even a fraction of this is true there is a good reason I don't work in games, much less for activision blizzard. As a case though... could be far stronger, though I also rarely find such things get filed if the prosecution does not think they can win.
 

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When a company needs to have "anti-harassment training", most has already been said about the people working there.
A) This is an American company. The worms of HR consultancy companies for decades now, especially in California, have been peddling nonsense where it is not needed under the guise of it being good for things. Might even be financially reinforced by insurance companies, or mandated by various unions. Don't know if there is the ever fun "fire inspector" problem (some company does something a politician/police without evidence/generally connected individual does not like and oh no the random fire inspector/anonymous report means you are shut down for a morning or given some nice fines because compliance is almost impossible).
B) There is the "few bad apples" problem. Selecting people for things without adequate internal review is tricky, boring your workforce for a morning on the other hand...
 

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Umm yeah this is worse than I thought.

View attachment 270769
I read that and am not sure what is so horrifying about it. It is also conflating a few things.

Going by what is read there.
Employee was in a sexual relationship with supervisor* (implied consent in that one -- would have presumably said if it was not given the contents of the rest of the document that don't shy away from accusations of unpleasantness, though that might be reserved for later rather than make an accusation now that could come back to bite them -- I don't know offhand what they are required to claim at this stage in this sort of case and whether they can introduce such notions later).
Where they got it was the fault of that relationship I don't know. It is there and does appear to be a claim so do I presume it was a note or statement at time of?
Butt plug and lube is not my idea of a good time and largely immaterial in this if we only have what is written there. If they were in a consensual relationship however (again it is the implication/what is understood from the things written there) then that is at best an effort to colour the reader's opinion.
Spicy photo being shared (allegedly) is an unrelated action as far as what has been written prior is concerned. Could certainly be a contributing/motivating factor to a suicide, and in that case one wonders what the relevance of the trip and relationship with supervisor is in this -- could just as easily be read as some dickheads at work caused a guy's girlfriend to kill herself if we are going by things suggested. This also says nothing about baseline mental state (and I would not necessarily expect the state to mention that -- present strongest) but as I already mentioned colouring things then is dubious to go there myself.

*no mention of whether it was prexisting, generally consensual (supervisory roles might well be a complicating factor, "other harassment" potentially implying that such a power difference is inherently a harassing activity but outside of military circles that is harder to go for law), pressured, her sleeping her way to the top... by and large all reasons to not dip pen in company ink but that is probably a different discussion.
 

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I read that and am not sure what is so horrifying about it. It is also conflating a few things.

Going by what is read there.
Employee was in a sexual relationship with supervisor* (implied consent in that one -- would have presumably said if it was not given the contents of the rest of the document that don't shy away from accusations of unpleasantness, though that might be reserved for later rather than make an accusation now that could come back to bite them -- I don't know offhand what they are required to claim at this stage in this sort of case and whether they can introduce such notions later).
Where they got it was the fault of that relationship I don't know. It is there and does appear to be a claim so do I presume it was a note or statement at time of?
Butt plug and lube is not my idea of a good time and largely immaterial in this if we only have what is written there. If they were in a consensual relationship however (again it is the implication/what is understood from the things written there) then that is at best an effort to colour the reader's opinion.
Spicy photo being shared (allegedly) is an unrelated action as far as what has been written prior is concerned. Could certainly be a contributing/motivating factor to a suicide, and in that case one wonders what the relevance of the trip and relationship with supervisor is in this -- could just as easily be read as some dickheads at work caused a guy's girlfriend to kill herself if we are going by things suggested. This also says nothing about baseline mental state (and I would not necessarily expect the state to mention that -- present strongest) but as I already mentioned colouring things then is dubious to go there myself.

*no mention of whether it was prexisting, generally consensual (supervisory roles might well be a complicating factor, "other harassment" potentially implying that such a power difference is inherently a harassing activity but outside of military circles that is harder to go for law), pressured, her sleeping her way to the top... by and large all reasons to not dip pen in company ink but that is probably a different discussion.

I was confused by the word relationship as well, I asked over on Reddit and people seem to agree it's just a wording issue. It definitely was manipulative/non-consensual.
 
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