The state of California has brought charges against Activision Blizzard. The company is accused of actively cultivating abuse, sexism, discrimination based on gender and skin color and bullying in the workplace and of tolerating grossly unprofessional behavior.
Above all, higher-ranking employees with personnel responsibility are accused in Scripture of neglecting their duties and of having participated in the culture of abuse. Fundamental injustices such as lower pay and appreciation of female employees, discrimination against pregnant and non-white women and lower opportunities for advancement based on gender are also part of the allegations, as are specific cases of inhuman behavior towards female colleagues.
Some high-ranking employees are also mentioned by name. The statements in the document are based on a two-year investigation by the state labor protection agency Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Discrimination as a leitmotif
In general, it should be normal at Activision Blizzard for male employees to show up to work hungover and therefore hand over their tasks to female colleagues. Instead of getting involved in day-to-day business, the men would then play video games. The women concerned would have no chance to defend themselves against it, as their superiors would behave in the same way and encourage the male employees to do so.
In addition, employees are notorious for holding so-called “cube crawls”, during which alcohol is consumed excessively in the offices. Numerous women are believed to have been sexually molested during these crawls. Despite this behavior, according to the prosecution, men are preferred in terms of promotions and salaries. The document names several cases in which significantly more qualified women were denied leadership positions because of their gender, which were then given to men.
Constant inappropriate contact, jokes about rape and loud descriptions of sexual experiences by the male workforce seem to be part of the working atmosphere at Blizzard. So far, there have been no consequences for this behavior despite numerous complaints.
The 20 percent or so female employees often have no choice but to change companies. Women with dark skin in particular should not have any chance of advancement at Activision Blizzard and should be targeted particularly often by superiors. For example, they must justify in writing why they are taking a vacation day and list in detail how they intend to spend it. Pregnant women are also discriminated against in terms of career opportunities and rooms that have been set up for mothers of young children to breastfeed are hijacked by male employees and used for meetings.
Constant sexual assault against women
Alex Afrasiabi receives special mention in the lawsuit: The former Senior Creative Director of World of Warcraft, who left Blizzard in 2020, is said to have attracted attention even in this climate due to unprofessional and abusive behavior. He often tried to kiss co-workers and put his arms around them and was noticed by inappropriate comments. One woman said he held her hand and invited her to his hotel room. Another says she was groped by him. Male colleagues often even had to intervene physically to remove him from female employees. Because of these frequent attacks, its premises were known internally as the “Cosby Suite”.
Blizzard President J. Allen Brack was well aware of this behavior but took no action against Afrasiabi. Verbal warnings remained that he was drinking too much and being a little “too friendly” to the female employees. Afrasiabi did not change his behavior during his time at Activision Blizzard.
In many other cases, Brack is accused of incompetence or intentional ignorance and thus of promoting these actions. A former CTO who was not named was observed during attacks and hired women not according to their qualifications, but according to how much they appealed to him. In the Battle.net department, women in particular were discriminated against, who in the eyes of their male colleagues are not “core gamers”. They were excluded from company events and treated with derogatory slogans.
The HR department is also accused of inefficiency and unprofessionalism. Complaints from employees are not treated confidentially there either. The internal company motto “every voice matters”, which is also reflected in the description on the official Company website finds it almost cynical against this background.
Employee committed suicide
A particularly disturbing account from the prosecution describes the case of an employee who entered into a physical relationship with her manager. She is said to have been subjected to serious assaults at work and pictures of her vagina are said to have been passed around at a company party. She committed suicide on a business trip with the manager in question. The supervisor’s luggage contained lubricant and an anal plug.
Many companies in the gaming sector have a serious problem with employee abuse and discrimination. Inadequate working conditions have also been complained about frequently at Activision Blizzard. The designation of the corporate culture as “frat boy culture” brings back memories of the revelations about Ubisoft from last year and, in detail, of the allegations against Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent.
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