Activision Blizzard is having an internal meltdown.
On July 20, the State of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed suit against the video game giant behind Call of Duty, Overwatch, and the Candy Crush saga alleging violation of civil rights and the equal pay act. In the formal complaint, the DFEH says that Activision Blizzard has “fostered a ‘frat boy’ culture that continues to thrive.” The complaint, which follows years of issues in the gaming industry, also states that “In the office, women are subjected to ‘cube crawls’, in which male employees 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.” And that’s just a small portion of the allegations contained in the 29-page complaint.
Following the suit, hundreds of current and former employees have taken to social media with stories backing the state’s claims of sexism, inequality, and more. Earlier today, #ActiBlizzWalkout began trending as more than 2,000 current and former staffers signed an open letter condemning the company’s response to the lawsuit, according to CNN. As news spread regarding a walkout and “virtual picket line” planned for tomorrow, July 28, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick issued an open letter to employees, a copy of which was sent to the Toy Book.
The letter can be read in its entirety below:
July 27, 2021
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.
Many of you have told us that active outreach comes from caring so deeply for the Company. That so many people have reached out and shared thoughts, suggestions, and highlighted opportunities for improvement is a powerful reflection of how you care for our communities of colleagues and players – and for each other. 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.
I have asked the 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. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.
We encourage anyone with an experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to use any of our many existing channels for reporting or to reach out to Stephanie. She and her team at WilmerHale will be available to speak with you on a confidential basis and can be reached at ATVI@wilmerhale.com or 202-247-2725. Your outreach will be kept confidential. Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated.
We are committed to long-lasting change. Effective immediately, we will be taking the following actions:
- Employee Support. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team.
- Listening Sessions. We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.
- Personnel Changes. We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the Company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.
- Hiring Practices. Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.
- In-game Changes. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content.
Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.
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.
The virtual picket line planned for tomorrow calls upon supporters to not play, nor log onto games, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Diablo, Overwatch, and more.
While Kotick’s letter could be construed as either a step in the right direction on the eve of revolt or just a small bandage on a much bigger wound, this is a saga that will ultimately play out in a California courtroom in the months ahead.