Further Activision Blizzard allegations emerge as former developer calls for industry unionization • Eurogamer.net
Further allegations regarding Activision Blizzard emerged this week following the recent lawsuit filed by the state of California alleging pervasive discrimination and harassment against women at the maker of World of Warcraft.
More than 2,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees have signed a petition calling for the company’s response to the recent “heinous and insulting” discrimination lawsuit.
Activision Blizzard’s first public comment on the lawsuit was to strongly deny its claims. An email then sent to staff by Fran Townsend, an executive of Activision Blizzard, who was George W. Bush’s homeland security and counterterrorism assistant from 2004 to 2008, was heavily criticized by staff. .
Amid a significant drop in the share price, Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick told staff the company’s initial response was “muted.” Hundreds of employees staged a walkout Wednesday at Blizzard’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif., And many more participated virtually across the world.
In the days that followed, more disturbing allegations emerged.
FUTURE WARNING CONTENT.
An IGN article published this week contains allegations by Activision Blizzard staff that largely corroborate what is alleged in the state of California lawsuit. According to IGN, women avoided drinking events at Blizzard because of their reputation, and around 2015, women were subjected to inappropriate touching in the chest area and elsewhere in Blizzard’s main office.
Activision Blizzard told IGN that Blizzard implemented a two drink limit at company events in 2018.
IGN also reports that at one point a Blizzard room designated for breastfeeding did not have locks, with one source claiming that “the men were entering the breastfeeding room. There was no way to lock it. the door. They were just looking and I have to yell at them to go. “
IGN said breastfeeding rooms now have locks on the doors.
Waypoint reported that Blizzard recruiters asked a security researcher if she “liked to be penetrated”, among other inappropriate comments, at a career fair in 2015.
Two years later, Blizzard contacted a security company whose researcher in question was director of operations.
Company CEO Jeremi Gosney wrote a scathing response to Blizzard describing the incident, issuing three conditions the two companies could work on together. One of them imposed a 50% “misogyny tax” on Blizzard, the proceeds of which would go to Women in Technology International, Girls in Tech and Girls Who Code.
Gosney took to Twitter last night to say “Blizzard had no interest in agreeing to our terms,” and “they still owe” the COO a formal written apology.
Blizzard declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Waypoint reported that in 2018, a former Activision Blizzard employee installed cameras in a bathroom at the company’s sales and quality assurance office in Minnesota with the intention of ‘spy on employees while using the restroom. The employee was given a suspended prison sentence.
The New York Times published the account of a former Activision Blizzard customer service employee who alleged that she had previously refused medication her manager gave her at a holiday party, which hampered her career, and a manager messaged him on Facebook asking inappropriate questions of a sexual nature. .
A former vice president said an executive asked her to have sex with him “because she” deserved to have fun “after her boyfriend died weeks earlier.”
Bloomberg addressed whether Activision Blizzard will now listen to employee inquiries. A spokesperson for the employees who organized the Blizzard walkout said Bloomberg management had not even acknowledged their demands, including an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts, hiring and promotion. of more diverse candidates, the publication of salary data and the authorization of a third party to audit Activision ‘sreporting and human resources procedures.
The response from an Activision spokesperson was called “generic”. “We know there are a variety of topics that need to be considered,” Activision Blizzard said.
Unionization has long been suggested as an option for video game developers, although it currently does not exist in North America.
This week Jeff Strain, who worked at Blizzard before co-founding ArenaNet, developer of Guild Wars and then Undead Labs, developer of State of Decay, wrote a letter, published by IGN, advocating for unionization within the industry, and even told its employees to unionize with its full support.
In the letter, Strain said he was part of a “cataclysmic reunion” in 1998 with one of the founders of Blizzard over “our objections to dismembered and impaled female body parts in the beta of Diablo.” . After this reunion, Strain and his wife began planning to leave Blizzard.
“… I have nothing to fear from unionization, nor any company that pays its employees fairly and equitably, provides quality health insurance, models respect and civility for women, POCs , LGBTQ + employees, and supports a healthy full life, ”Strain mentioned.
What will become of the state of California’s lawsuit against Activision Blizzard? According to the Washington Post, some labor law experts believe the case is likely serious for plaintiffs, with one expert saying they don’t expect the case to be dismissed sooner.
Activision Blizzard must now either respond to the claims of the lawsuit within 30 days of its service, or question a procedural aspect of the case. If a judge allows the case to proceed, we look at the discovery process before the judge decides whether the case is worth trying.
Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard brought in law firm WilmerHale to “review” the company’s HR policies. WilmerHale, as Kotaku noted, is the same law firm that helps Amazon stop its workers from unionizing.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is also involved in the ongoing case against League of Legends maker Riot Games. DFEH opposed a proposed $ 10 million settlement, saying the figure could reach $ 400 million.