Content warning: sexual violence and self-harm
Update 7/22/3:00 PM: Activision Blizzard released a lengthy statement, in which they denied allegations of fostering a sexist workplace culture.
"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 company said in their statement.
Additionally, numerous women have come forward on Twitter to share their experiences with sexism and harassment at Blizzard and in the esports industry as a whole.
As first reported by Bloomberg Law, Activision Blizzard is being sued by the state of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for fostering a sexist environment, paying women unequally, and a variety of other discrimination allegations.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday in the LA Superior Court, women who work at Activision make up only 1/5 of employees and are subjected to multiple forms of sexist discrimination at work. In the complaint, the department cited numerous causes of action, including:
- employment discrimination because of sex
- failure to prevent discrimination and harassment
- unequal pay.
"Unlike its customer-base of increasingly diverse players, Defendants workforce is only 20 percent women," the California department argued in the complaint. "Its top leadership is also exclusively male and white. . . Very few women ever reach top roles at the company. The women who do reach higher roles earn less salary, incentive pay and total compensation than their male peers, as evidenced in Defenant's own records."
The complaint goes on to state that women across the company are assigned lower-paid jobs, and that women also receive lower starting pay than men for the same work. They also contend that Activision promotes women more slowly and is more likely to terminate them than with men.
"[Activision Blizzard] also fostered a pervasive "frat boy" workplace culture that continues to thrive," the department continued. "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 engaged in inappropriate behavior toward female employees."
They also asserted that, "male employees proudly come into work hungover, play video games for long periods of time during work while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape."
They go on to argue that such a "frat boy" culture is a "breeding ground" for harassment and discrimination against women. They claim "Female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, including having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors and being groped at the "cube crawls" and other company events."
They cited numerous specific examples of discrimination that can be read in the full complaint, including a tragic instance of a female employee committing suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who brought various sexual paraphernalia on the trip.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing is seeking a variety of types of damages in the complaint, including compensatory damages, punitive damages, unpaid wages, injunctive relief, and more.
We will be following this story as it develops.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.