Activision Blizzard, the writer behind World of Warcraft, Diablo and Call of Duty, is being sued by The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing following a two-year investigation into the corporate’s alleged discrimination in opposition to feminine staff.
The swimsuit claims that Activision Blizzard fosters a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture”, with feminine staff on the firm subjected to fixed sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation, in addition to decrease pay and decrease alternative ranges than their male friends.
Below, we’ve put collectively a timeline of the key developments for the reason that Activision Blizzard lawsuit was filed, with most up-to-date updates listed first, to assist give you the complete image of the actions and statements of the writer. We will replace this timeline as extra particulars emerge.
Content warning: the article beneath comprises data that some readers could discover upsetting together with mentions of suicide, discrimination sexual harassment and assault.
August 3 – Investor information class motion lawsuit
As reported by Bloomberg Law, an Activision Blizzard investor information a class-action lawsuit in opposition to the corporate for “violations of the federal securities law“. Specifically named within the swimsuit are Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick, Chief Financial Officer Dennis Durkin, and former Chief Financial Officer Spencer Neumann.
The swimsuit claims that Activision Blizzard was not clear with shareholders about The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s two-year investigation into the corporate, which serves as proof within the company’s swimsuit in opposition to Activision Blizzard. The swimsuit claims that, as a outcome, shareholders suffered financial damages when the swimsuit was filed and share costs for Activision Blizzard suffered a “precipitous decline in the market value“.
The submitting states the next:
“This is a class action on behalf of persons or entities who purchased or otherwise acquired publicly traded Activision Blizzard securities between August 4, 2016 and July 27, 2021, inclusive (the “Class Period”). Plaintiff seeks to recover compensable damages caused by Defendants’ violations of the federal securities laws under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”).”
The swimsuit consists of excerpts from Activision Blizzard 10-Okay reviews between 2016 and 2021, which embrace disclosures about “routine” authorized claims. In reference to these claims, the swimsuit claims:
“The statements contained in ¶¶16-30 were materially false and/or misleading because they misrepresented and failed to disclose the following adverse facts pertaining to the Company’s business, operations and prospects, which were known to Defendants or recklessly disregarded by them. Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that:
“(1) Activision Blizzard discriminated in opposition to ladies and minority staff;
“(2) Activision Blizzard fostered a pervasive “frat boy” workplace culture that continues to thrive;
“(3) quite a few complaints about illegal harassment, discrimination, and retaliation had been made to human sources (“HR”) personnel and executives which went unaddressed;
“(4) the pervasive culture of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation would result in serious impairments to Activision Blizzard’s operations;
“(5) as a outcome of the foregoing, the Company was at larger danger of regulatory and authorized scrutiny and enforcement, together with that which might have a materials adversarial impact;
“(6) Activision Blizzard failed to inform shareholders that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) had been investigating Activision Blizzard for harassment and discrimination; and
“(7) as a outcome, Defendants’ statements about Activision Blizzard’s enterprise, operations, and prospects, had been materially false and deceptive and/or lacked a cheap foundation in any respect related instances.”
The suit states:
“Defendants acted with scienter in that they knew that the general public paperwork and statements issued or disseminated within the identify of Activision Blizzard had been materially false and deceptive; knew that such statements or paperwork can be issued or disseminated to the investing public; and knowingly and considerably participated, or acquiesced within the issuance or dissemination of such statements or paperwork as major violations of the securities legal guidelines. These Defendants by advantage of their receipt of data reflecting the true info of Activision Blizzard, their management over, and/or receipt and/or modification of Activision Blizzard’s allegedly materially deceptive statements, and/or their associations with the Company which made them privy to confidential proprietary data regarding Activision Blizzard, participated within the fraudulent scheme alleged herein.”
The suit continues:
“As a outcome of the foregoing, the market value of Activision Blizzard securities was artificially inflated in the course of the Class Period. In ignorance of the falsity of Defendants’ statements, Plaintiff and the opposite members of the Class relied on the statements described above and/or the integrity of the market value of Activision Blizzard securities in the course of the Class Period in buying Activision Blizzard securities at costs that had been artificially inflated as a outcome of Defendants’ false and deceptive statements.”
“Had Plaintiff and the opposite members of the Class been conscious that the market value of Activision Blizzard securities had been artificially and falsely inflated by Defendants’ deceptive statements and by the fabric adversarial data which Defendants didn’t disclose, they’d not have bought Activision Blizzard securities on the artificially inflated costs that they did, or in any respect.
“As a result of the wrongful conduct alleged herein, Plaintiff and other members of the Class have suffered damages in an amount to be established at trial.”
August 3 – Bloomberg reviews Blizzard’s Senior Vice President of HR has left the corporate
August 3 – Activision Blizzard second-quarter 2021 monetary outcomes press launch consists of assertion
A press launch issued following Activision Blizzard’s second-quarter earnings name consists of a part titled ‘Commitment to a Safe Working Environment’. The part consists of a assertion from Activision Blizzard, which reads as follows:
“Following serious allegations regarding the company’s employment, compensation and workplace practices, Activision Blizzard is taking swift action to ensure a safe and welcoming work environment for all employees. We have engaged a law firm 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. We will be adding additional staff to our Compliance and Employee Relations teams, strengthening our capabilities in investigating employee concerns. We are creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for employees to speak out and share areas for improvements. We will be evaluating managers and leaders across the company with respect to their compliance with our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences. And we will be adding resources to ensure and enhance our consideration of diverse candidate slates for all open positions. The leadership of the company is committed to creating the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.”
August 3 – Activision Blizzard CEO points assertion throughout second-quarter earnings name
At the start of Activision Blizzard’s second-quarter earnings name, CEO Bobby Kotick points the next assertion addressing the lawsuit:
“I want to start by making clear to everyone that there is no place at our company where discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind will be tolerated nowhere. We so appreciate the current and former employees who have come forward in past and recent days with courage.
“And I would like to reiterate the commitments we’ve got made to you. Our work atmosphere all over the place we function is not going to allow discrimination, harassment or unequal remedy. We would be the firm that units the instance for this in our business. While we’ve taken many steps in the direction of this goal already, at this time, we’re taking much more. Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been named new co-leads of Blizzard.
“Jen has been with the company for 18 years. She’s the former head of our studio Vicarious Visions and most recently had production and development oversight for our Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Mike has been in our industry for over 20 years, including leadership roles within Microsoft Xbox division and at Blizzard as General Manager of Battle.net.
“I’m additionally happy to have Allen Adham right here at this time. As most of you know, Allen is one of the founders of Blizzard. After a 12-year hiatus, Allen returned to Blizzard to lead our new product and new IP incubation efforts. Each of these people brings huge business expertise and super integrity to their roles. They are the easiest examples of management with character and accountability. I’m assured this staff will make sure that Blizzard supplies the welcoming, snug and secure office that’s important to foster creativity and inspiration.
“In addition, we’ll continue to investigate each and every claim and complaint that we receive. When we learn of shortcomings, we will take decisive action. And to strengthen our capabilities in this area, we’ll be adding additional staff and resources. People will be held accountable for their actions. That commitment means that we will not just terminate employees where appropriate, but we’ll also terminate any manager or leader found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences.
“Because our work can’t be profitable with various voices, views and skills, we made a dedication to take into account various slates of candidates for all open positions. And we’ll proceed to add sources to guarantee this happens all through the corporate. Over the previous a number of years, we’ve made vital modifications to deal with firm tradition, mirror extra range inside our management groups and create environments conducive to reporting any sort of misconduct. We’ve amplified inner packages that encourage staff to report violations. We’ve strengthened channels for workers to voice considerations in confidential and secure methods with none worry of retaliation. We’re directing further sources to our compliance and worker relations groups devoted to investigating complaints.
“We pride ourselves on paying our employees competitively and fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We regularly review our compensation to ensure that we remain equitable in our approach. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors such as performance, role and expertise. And we conduct extensive antidiscrimination trainings, including for all employees involved in the compensation process.
“Our office initiatives are essential to our continued success and our management on this effort is my precedence. Our office security additionally stays our precedence. And as we take into account our return to work initiatives, we stay targeted on offering the easiest well being take care of our staff and their households.
“You have my unwavering commitment that we will continue to focus on serving our players and delivering the sustainable growth that you’ve come to expect and we will take all necessary actions to foster a culture that is supportive and welcoming for all of our employees. And we expect to be the very best example for other companies to emulate.”
Activision Blizzard President and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Alegre follows Kotick’s feedback, stating:
“I’d like to underscore the points that Bobby made regarding the company’s commitment to ensuring the very best work environment. The leadership team and I will do our utmost to make sure that we’re always improving and building the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to enable creativity and professional growth for all employees. There will be no tolerance at our company for harassment or unequal treatment of any kind. Our continued strong performance is because of the efforts of our incredibly talented people and we will make certain the workplace facilitates the best possible performance through constant improvement to our culture and unwavering conviction to our values.”
During the Q&A piece of the decision, Matthew Cost, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, asks:
“We’ve seen a lot of headlines about the lawsuit and employee concerns. Can you talk more about what you’ve been doing and will do to address those issues? And then, just secondly, can you expand on any expected impact to productivity as you work through the situation and do you expect any impact on the pipeline?”
In response, Alegre states:
“As you heard from Bobby, our employees are truly our greatest asset. And we remain absolutely focused as a leadership team on providing a diverse and a safe environment for our teams and have taken a number of actions thus far. For instance, we’ve engaged an outside law firm to conduct a review of our policies and procedures with respect to our workplace and where employees can connect if they have experienced any issues whatsoever.
“We may even be including employees to our compliance and worker relations groups that examine worker considerations. This is to make sure that we’re at all times contemplating additionally various candidates for all open positions. As a chief myself, I know how essential having a various workforce could be for all features of our enterprise. And that is important. We will probably be evaluating and coaching additionally our folks managers to make sure that they’re complying with our processes for dealing with worker considerations in addition to taking the suitable actions. And we’re proactively partaking with our staff to hear and reply to their suggestions.
“For several years now, we have been focused on ensuring more diversity throughout the company, especially in our leadership roles and have dramatically increased the number of women and minorities in both the C-suite and in our business units. And our compensation practice is that women and men are paid equitably for equal work. As you heard, we’ve appointed Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra as the new co-leads at Blizzard and I am so glad that an original Blizzard founder, Allen Adham, who returned to the company a few years ago, continues to lead our engagement projects. We have a great leadership at Blizzard and are excited about the new direction the company will take.
“Also, we’re dedicated to an equitable and secure work atmosphere. And that’s what’s essential. As we evolve our firm, you ought to anticipate additional bulletins from us going ahead. To reply your query on productiveness and pipeline, as you heard at this time, the pipeline is progressing nicely. In explicit, some of the content material within the pipeline has been in growth for a few years and is approaching the ultimate levels of manufacturing. We’re monitoring the impression of latest events clearly as we talk about at this time, however primarily based on what we see presently, we’ve got a sturdy lineup deliberate for the second half of the 12 months. And as we glance into 2022, we’re presently planning for a number of new titles throughout PC, console and cellular from Blizzard, alongside extra nice experiences from Call of Duty, Candy and Warcraft.”
Andrew Uerkwitz, an analyst at Jefferies, also asks about the lawsuit.
“It’s nice to hear type of the colour across the insurance policies and procedures and creating secure workplaces and whatnot. However, I’m positive morale is low. So I’m simply curious how Mike and Jen plan to type of rekindle the pleasure that Blizzard has been recognized for and type of simply rebuild that morale. But additionally type of on the similar time, as you type of pay attention to everybody’s tales and experiences and make the required modifications, how does that not have an effect on manufacturing going ahead?”
In response, Jennifer Oneal, Executive Vice President of Development and now co-leader of Activision Blizzard, states:
“First off, there’s nothing extra essential to me than our folks. And I know Mike Ybarra, who’s partnering with me to lead Blizzard, feels precisely the identical. Since I joined the studio firstly of the 12 months, I’ve had the privilege of working nearer with the Diablo and Overwatch groups. I’m seeing nice progress on Overwatch 2 and the a number of video games within the Diablo Universe. I’m consistently impressed by our gifted groups, their inventive imaginative and prescient, their dedication to placing gameplay first. Our persons are enthusiastic about our video games. They perceive our gamers and, in lots of instances, they’ve come from the participant communities themselves and naturally are pushed to serve them.
“And as Bobby and Daniel have mentioned, we are expanding these teams. We’re doubling down on our development recruiting as we expand the scope and vision of our franchises. When we come together, we make some of the best games in the industry. And we’re now seeing that energy apply to our culture, which is equally important. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but the passion and productivity are already here. And when our people feel safe and supported, the rest is going to take care of itself.”
J.Allen Brack, who has simply left his place as Blizzard Entertainment President, then states:
“The passion that our developers have for innovation and creativity is what makes Blizzard great. It’s why we’ve been able to make so many great games for 30 years now. And this has always been the vision since the very beginning. I’m excited about our future about the things we’re creating together, about building the new culture and renewing that spirit. We’re tightlipped about it, but our new game pipeline has been in development for many years. And it’s greater than it’s ever been across our core franchises and mobile, new IP and new genres. I’m looking forward to our teams launching their already announced new games in the not-too-distant future and in due course announcing a few new ones that you have yet to hear about.”
August 3 – Blizzard Entertainment President leaves firm
Activision Blizzard President and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Alegre sends a letter to all staff saying that Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack is “leaving the company to pursue new opportunities”. Brack is one of the Activision Blizzard executives named within the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s lawsuit. The letter reveals that, efficient instantly, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard.
“I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard. Jen and Mike will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company. Both are leaders of great character and integrity and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards.
“Many of us already know Mike and Jen and have skilled their management, their empathy and their unwavering sense of accountability:
“Jen is an 18-year company veteran and the former head of Vicarious Visions studio. As Executive Vice President of Development at Blizzard, she has been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises.
“Mike has been within the know-how and gaming industries for over 20 years, together with 7 years as a senior government at Microsoft’s XBOX division. Most lately Mike was Executive Vice President & General Manager of Platform and Technology at Blizzard overseeing Battle.web and our Development Services organizations.
“With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion and a dedication to excellence.
“With Jen and Mike assuming their new roles, J. Allen Brack is leaving the corporate to pursue new alternatives.
In addition to the publishing of the letter despatched to staff, a publish is printed on the official Blizzard web site which is addressed to “all members of the Blizzard Community”. The full publish reads as follows:
“To all members of the Blizzard Community,
“We need to let you know about an essential management change at Blizzard Entertainment.
“Starting today, J. Allen Brack will be stepping down as the leader of the studio, and Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will co-lead Blizzard moving forward.
“Jen joined Blizzard in January as government vp of growth, the place she’s been offering senior growth management and help to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Jen is the previous head of Vicarious Visions (which is now half of Blizzard Entertainment).
“After many years at XBOX, Mike joined the company in 2019 as the executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology, where he’s been overseeing the evolution of Battle.net and our development services organization.
“Jen and Mike have greater than three a long time of gaming business expertise between them. Moving ahead, they are going to share tasks over recreation growth and firm operations.
“Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust. With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You’ll hear more from Jen and Mike soon.
“The following is a message from J. Allen Brack:
‘I’m assured that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will present the management Blizzard wants to notice its full potential and will speed up the tempo of change. I anticipate they are going to achieve this with ardour and enthusiasm and that they are often trusted to lead with the best ranges of integrity and dedication to the elements of our tradition that make Blizzard so particular.’
“Finally, thank you all for being a part of the Blizzard community, and for your passion and determination for safety and equality for all.”
July 30 – Further reviews
Media publications, reminiscent of IGN and Vice, conduct interviews with sources claimed to be former and present staff, in addition to accounts that corroborate the expertise of sexual harassment from Activision Blizzard and its staff. These reviews are exterior the official lawsuit.
July 30 – Ubisoft open letter group challenge “final response”
The Ubisoft group that organized the open letter in solidarity with Activision Blizzard employees responds to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot’s inner e-mail from July 29. In a “final response” issued to GamesIndustry.biz, the group states that the “majority” of its calls for had been “sidelined” and “few of our points seem to have been addressed“.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, the group states:
“We are aware that the company has made some improvements, and we are happy to hear that Yves and the leadership team agree that it is not enough. However, Ubisoft continues to protect and promote known offenders and their allies. We see management continuing to avoid this issue. It is also worth clarifying that an invitation to reach out to company management personally is not the same as having a collective seat at the table.”
The group additionally tells the publication it “[looks] forward to a full response“.
Another member of the group tells GamesIndustry.biz the next:
“Even though change has been happening and there seems to be a major restructuring happening internally, it’s hypocritical of management to say that they’re working on it while still harboring, protecting, permitting, and shuffling around known toxic and abusive people to other positions of power. Morale and trust is low.
“It’s exhausting, irritating and it counters the messaging they provide us. We can’t be blissful or glad with this hypocrisy. For the one one that signed there are numerous others who merely had been too terrified. Do higher or maintain shedding good folks.”
July 29 – Ubisoft CEO responds to open letter
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot responds to the open letter from Ubisoft staff from the day before (which has now been signed by over 1000 current and former employees). In an internal email to staff, obtained by Axios, Guillemot states: “We have heard clearly from this letter that not everyone seems to be assured within the processes which were put in place to handle misconduct reviews”. The full statement is included below.
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot emailed all employees today about yesterday’s open letter: “We have heard clearly from this letter that not everyone seems to be assured within the processes which were put in place to handle misconduct reviews” pic.twitter.com/P6T22vS5cLJuly 29, 2021
July 29, 2021 – Shareholders investigate Activision Blizzard amidst lawsuit
In a note shared on BusinessWire, shareholder rights law firm Robbins LLP is investigating Activision Blizzard “to determine whether certain Activision officers and directors violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and breached their fiduciary duties to the company”.
Activision Blizzard shares have dropped by as much as 7% since the lawsuit was filed.
July 28, 2021- Kotaku’s “Cosby Suite” report
A Kotaku report shares further information on the “Cosby Suite” mentioned in the lawsuit. Based on photographs and Facebook posts obtained by the publication, the report claims that “people beyond Alex Afrasiabi were aware of the ‘Cosby Suite’ mentioned in the lawsuit”.
Kotaku reports that the “Cosby Suite” was the name given to Afrasiabi’s BlizzCon 2013 hotel room and that the suite was a “meeting place where many, including Afrasiabi, would pose with an actual portrait of Bill Cosby while smiling”.
According to Kotaku, the captions and comments on these social media images “are both written by and refer by name to other Blizzard employees”, with one ex-Blizzard source telling the publication that an HR representative is present in one of the hotel room images.
Another image obtained by Kotaku shows a screenshot from a 2013 group chat called the “BlizzCon Cosby Crew”.
“In it, former Blizzard designer David Kosak writes, “I am gathering the hot chixx for the Coz.”,” Kotaku reports. “‘Bring em,’ replies Afrasiabi. ‘You can’t marry ALL of them Alex,”’ Kosak writes. ‘I can, I’m middle eastern,’ responds Afrasiabi. Jesse McCree, currently a lead game designer at Blizzard, then writes, ‘You misspelled f***.’”
Kotaku reports that the images it obtained are part of “a series of screenshots depicting a wide array of Facebook posts by Afrasiabi, all under a 2013 photo album”.
When asked about the “Cosby Suite images” a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard tells Kotaku: “An employee brought these 2013 events to our attention in June 2020. We immediately conducted our own investigation and took corrective action. At the time of the report, we had already conducted a separate investigation of Alex Afrasiabi and terminated him for his misconduct in his treatment of other employees.”
Kotaku approached Afrasiabi for comment but did not receive a response. Riot Games’ Greg Street, one member of the group chat, released a assertion.
I simply shared this message with Riot and wished to share with you all. pic.twitter.com/YRlawp7RokJuly 28, 2021
July 28, 2021- Ubisoft employees sign letter of support
Nearly 500 Ubisoft employees from 32 studios sign an open letter in support of the Activision Blizzard walkout.
The open letter was shared with Axios and establishes solidarity with Activision Blizzard employees while criticizing Ubisoft’s handling of the company’s own sexual misconduct allegations which were reported last year.
The letter calls for steps to be taken to prevent a “deeply ingrained culture of abusive behaviors within the industry”.
Here’s the letter in full. It doesn’t just stand with AB workers, doesn’t just criticize Ubisoft bosses. It calls for industry-wide action and change, with publishers and developers getting involved. pic.twitter.com/WMNmRHjrq0July 28, 2021
In response to the letter, Ubisoft issued a statement to Axios saying:
“We have rigorously learn the letter signed by former and present Ubisoft staff,” Ubisoft said. “We have a deep respect for the engagement of our groups who’re pushing for modifications inside our business. We need to be very clear that we take this letter—and the problems it raises—very critically. Over the previous 12 months, we’ve got dedicated to partaking with our staff to enact basic modifications. Many of these modifications have been pushed by inner suggestions and insights shared by our groups and we’re grateful for this ongoing communication.
“Ubisoft has made significant and meaningful changes that seek to create a safe and inclusive work environment for all, and there is still more work to be done. We absolutely stand behind these efforts and the positive impact they have had on our company culture while also recognizing that we must continue to engage with our employees to ensure we are creating a workplace where they feel valued, supported, and most importantly, safe.”
July 28, 2021 – Activision blizzard staff stroll out and reply to CEO letter
Activision Blizzard staff stroll out in protest of the lawsuit, with some protesting on the gates of the corporate’s Irvine headquarters. Employees’ calls for are shared on social media with #ActiBlizzWalkout, with developments worldwide.
The protest organizers additionally launched a assertion in response to CEO Bobby Kotick’s e-mail from the day past claiming it “fails to address critical elements”.
Activision Blizzard walkout organizers simply launched a assertion in response to CEO Bobby Kotick’s e-mail to employees during which he described the corporate’s response as “tone deaf” pic.twitter.com/64D7w8PhOLJuly 28, 2021
July 27, 2021 – World of Warcraft staff to “remove references that are not appropriate”
The World of Warcraft staff publishes a publish on the World of Warcraft boards saying will probably be eradicating “references that are not appropriate” from the sport world.
It’s unclear what these references are however some World of Warcraft gamers have been calling for the removing of references to ex-Senior Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi, who is known as within the lawsuit.
Afrasiabi has a number of characters and objects named after him in World of Warcraft, together with a quest-giver known as Field Marshal Afrasiabi. It’s unclear if the assertion refers to these references at current. The full assertion reads:
“It was clear from our team conversations that we wanted to put forth a statement that was representative of the World of Warcraft team’s sentiments. We asked all members of our team to send us their suggestions and feedback on how best to address the community and this is the result.
“The past days have been a time of reflection for the World of Warcraft team, spent in conversation and contemplation, full of sadness, pain, and anger, but also hope and resolve.
“As we heed the brave women who have come forward to share their experiences, we stand committed to taking the actions necessary to ensure we are providing an inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment both for our team and for our players in Azeroth.
“Those of us in leadership understand that it is not our place to judge when we have achieved our goals, but rather for our team and our community to let us know when we still have more to do.
“While we turn to our team for guidance in our internal work to protect marginalized groups and hold accountable those who threaten them, we also want to take immediate action in Azeroth to remove references that are not appropriate for our world.
“This work has been underway, and you will be seeing several such changes to both Shadowlands and WoW Classic in the coming days.
“We know that in order to rebuild trust, we must earn it with our actions in the weeks and months to come. But we go forward knowing that we share the same vision as our community about creating a place where people of all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds can thrive and proudly call home.”
July 27, 2021- Activision CEO apologizes for “tone deaf” response
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick issues a statement to employees apologizing for the company’s “tone deaf” response to the lawsuit and announces that WilmerHale has been hired to conduct a review into the company’s internal practices and policies. The full statement reads below:
“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 [email protected] 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.”
July 27, 2021- Activision Blizzard employees organize a walkout
In support of the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard employees announce they’re conducting a walkout (both physical and virtual) on July 28. The organizers released a full statement to Polygon:
“Given last week’s statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, and the many stories shared by current and former employees of Activision Blizzard since, we believe that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.
“As current Activision Blizzard employees, we are holding a walkout to call on the executive leadership team to work with us on the following demands, in order to improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups.
“1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
“2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
“3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
“4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.”
July 26, 2021- Activision Blizzard employees sign an open letter supporting lawsuit
Bloomberg reports that more than 2,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees have signed an open letter calling the company’s responses to the lawsuit “abhorrent and insulting”.
The full letter reads as follows:
“To the Leaders of Activision Blizzard,
“We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for. To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.
“We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry. Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.
“Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action — and the troubling official responses that followed — we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit,” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse, is simply unacceptable.
“We call for official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault. We call on Frances Townsend to stand by her word to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement. We call on the executive leadership team to work with us on new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees — as well as our community — have a safe place to speak out and come forward.
“We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind. We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.”
July 25, 2021 – Work on WoW stops
World of Warcraft Senior System Designer Jeff Hamilton tweets that production on World of Warcraft has stopped as a result of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t have all the answers. I can tell you, almost no work is being done on World of Warcraft right now while this obscenity plays out. And that benefits nobody – not the players, not the developers, not the shareholders.July 25, 2021
Activision Blizzard Chief Compliance Officer, Frances Townsend, holds a listening session via Zoom with women at Blizzard. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson confirms to The Washington Post that, on the same day as the call, Townsend steps down as executive sponsor of the Activision-Blizzard-King Women’s Network.
July 22, 2021- Blizzard Activision President emails staff
Blizzard President J. Allen Brack sends out an email to Activision Blizzard staff addressing the allegations from the lawsuit. It is obtained by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier who publishes it on July 23.
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack sent out an email to staff last night addressing the allegations from this week’s explosive lawsuit, calling them “extraordinarily troubling” and saying that he’d be “assembly with many of you to reply questions and talk about how we are able to transfer ahead.” pic.twitter.com/NsMV6CNdTEJuly 23, 2021
July 22, 2021- Blizzard Activision executive emails staff
Activision Blizzard executive Frances Townsend also sends out an internal email to Activision Blizzard staff, which is again obtained by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier and published on July 23.
Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend, who was the Homeland Security Advisor to George W. Bush from 2004-2007 and joined Activision in March, sent out a very different kind of email that has some Blizzard employees fuming. pic.twitter.com/BxGeMTuRYFJuly 23, 2021
July 21, 2021- Bloomberg report and Activision Blizzard assertion
Bloomberg Law reviews that Activision Blizzard is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Activision Blizzard releases a assertion on the lawsuit to Bloomberg Law and different publications. The assertion reads as follows:
“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 launched an Employee Relations staff devoted to investigating worker considerations.
“We have strengthened our dedication to range, fairness and inclusion and mixed our Employee Networks at a international degree, to present further help. Employees should additionally endure common anti-harassment coaching and have finished so for a few 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.”
July 20, 2021 – Lawsuit filed
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing information a lawsuit in opposition to Activision Blizzard Inc following a two-year investigation into the corporate’s alleged discrimination in opposition to feminine staff.
The swimsuit claims that Activision Blizzard fosters a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture”, with feminine staff on the firm subjected to fixed sexual harassment and retaliation, in addition to decrease pay and decrease alternative ranges than their male friends, forcing “many women” to depart the corporate.
The swimsuit describes so-called “cube crawls” during which male staff drink “copious amounts of alcohol” and then proceed to “crawl” by means of varied workplace cubicles, allegedly usually partaking in “inappropriate behavior” in the direction of feminine staff.
The swimsuit additionally claims that male staff usually come into work hungover and play video video games, delegating their work to feminine staff whereas partaking in banter about their sexual encounters, speaking brazenly about feminine our bodies and joking about rape.
The swimsuit claims that this “frat boy culture” is a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”, with feminine Activision Blizzard staff regularly having to fend off sexual developments and feedback made by their co-workers and superiors and being groped on the aforementioned “cube crawls”, citing high-ranking executives and creators allegedly interact on this sexual harassment with out repercussion.
The swimsuit makes use of the instance of a feminine worker who dedicated suicide on a enterprise journey with a male colleague, following intense sexual harassment on the firm – which included having nude images of her handed round at a firm get together.
According to the swimsuit, Activision Blizzard didn’t take steps to forestall harassment, discrimination or retaliation. The swimsuit claims that feminine staff had been discouraged from reporting points to HR as human useful resource personnel had been allegedly shut to the perpetrators and so complaints had been dismissed and not stored confidential.
As a outcome of these complaints, the swimsuit claims that feminine staff confronted retaliation from perpetrators that included being transferred to completely different models, disadvantaged from work initiatives and chosen for layoffs.
In one other instance of sexual harassment, the swimsuit claims that Alex Afrasiabi, former Senior Creative Director at World of Warcraft, was permitted to interact in “blatant sexual harassment” with no repercussions.
Afrasiabi allegedly made undesirable advances to feminine staff, tried to kiss them and would inform them he wished to marry them. The swimsuit additionally claims that Afrasiabi was “so known to engage in harassment of females” that his suite at BlizzCon was dubbed the “Cosby Suite” after the disgraced Bill Cosby (whose conviction of sexual assault has since been overturned).
Other allegations within the swimsuit embrace ladies being denied promotion in case they grew to become pregnant, derogatory name-calling, being criticized for amassing youngsters from little one care, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male colleagues may have conferences.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is demanding a jury trial and is looking for an injunction forcing compliance with office protections, in addition to unpaid wages, pay changes, again pay, and misplaced wages and advantages for feminine staff.