California sues Activision Blizzard, alleging culture of sexual harassment

Business

CNN 22 July, 2021 - 07:21am 16 views

Bloomberg reports that the suit, filed on July 20, is the culmination of a two-year investigation into the publisher by the Department, which says that Activision Blizzard’s “compliance with California’s broad workplace protections is long overdue”.

“To enforce such compliance”, the case says, “DFEH brings this government enforcement action seeking to remedy, prevent and deter [Activision Blizzard’s] violations of state’s civil rights and equal pay laws.”

While pointing out the lack of women in leadership positions at the company, and the difficulties they have faced in gaining promotions, the suit also highlights enormous pay discrepancies at the executive level between women and men, and says women are not only promoted more slowly, they’re also terminated “more quickly than their male counterparts”.

The company’s “frat boy” workplace culture is also mentioned, as a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”. Some of the examples provided include:

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. 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.

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. High-ranking executives and creators engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.

In a particularly tragic example, a female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who had brought butt plugs and lubricant with him on the trip.

The suit also accuses Activision Blizzard of failing to act on “numerous complaints” concerning harassment, discrimination and retaliation from male colleagues over those complaints, and says employees affected were “further discouraged from complaining as human resource personnel were known to be close to alleged harassers”.

The DFEH has brought the suit seeking an injunction that will force Activision Blizzard to not only begin complying with state workplace laws, but also address “unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees.”

In January of this year, Activision Blizzard called attempts to make its workplace more diverse “unworkable”.

UPDATE: Activision has responded to the DFEH’s suit with a lengthy statement that calls the DFEH and its suit “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats”.

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 updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation focus, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many 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.

Read full article at CNN

Activision Blizzard Sued Over 'Frat Boy' Culture, Harassment (1)

Bloomberg Law 22 July, 2021 - 10:00am

A two-year investigation by the state agency found that the company discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, and termination. Company leadership consistently failed to take steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, the agency said.

According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, female employees make up around 20% of the Activision workforce, and are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” including “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.”

The agency alleges male employees play video games during the workday while delegating responsibilities to female employees, engage in sexual banter, and joke openly about rape, among other things.

Female employees allege being held back from promotions because of the possibility they might become pregnant, being criticized for leaving to pick their children up from daycare, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male colleagues could use the room for meetings, the complaint says.

Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior, the agency alleges.

The suit also points to a female Activision employee who took her own life while on a company trip with her male supervisor. The employee had been subjected to intense sexual harassment prior to her death, including having nude photos passed around at a company holiday party, the complaint says.

The agency seeks an injunction forcing compliance with workplace protections, as well as unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees.

“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,” a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard said in a statement. “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,” the statement continued.

“The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today,” the company said.

Causes of Action: Employment discrimination because of sex; retaliation; failure to prevent discrimination and harassment; unequal pay.

Relief: Compensatory damages; punitive damages; unpaid wages; injunctive relief; declaratory relief; equitable relief; pre-judgment interest; attorneys’ fees; costs.

Attorneys: Internal counsel represents the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The case is Calif. Dep’t of Fair Emp. & Housing v. Activision Blizzard Inc., Cal. Super. Ct., No. 21stcv26571, 7/20/21.

Activision Blizzard Sued by California Over Allegations of 'Frat Boy Culture' And Sexual Harassment - IGN

IGN 22 July, 2021 - 10:00am

As reported by Bloomberg, Activision Blizzard is being accused by the state of California of discriminating against female employees at nearly all levels of employment, including in regards to compensation, promotion, assignments, and termination. The state alleges Activision Blizzard’s leadership has failed to address any of these outstanding issues or prevent them from occurring within the workplace. You can read the full details of the lawsuit here.

The suit, filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, says Activision Blizzard — which is made up of about 20 percent women — assigns women, and women of color, to "lower paid and lower opportunity levels" with lower starting pay for similar work as their male counterparts.

The documents also accuse Activision Blizzard of fostering a "pervasive 'frat boy' workplace culture in the office. Male employees are said to drink "copious amounts of alcohol" as they make their way through cubicles and "often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees."

Have you played Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War?

Male employees are said to come to work hungover, play video games 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."

The lawsuit also cites one particular incident where a female employee, who was already subjected to intense sexual harassment at the company, committed suicide during a work trip with a male supervisor who allegedly brought inappropriate, sexual items with him on the trip.

The lawsuit is asking for an injunction that will force Activision Blizzard to comply with workplace protections, as well as deliver unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson sent the following statement in response to the allegations:

California sues Activision Blizzard over sexist, harmful workplace culture

Gamasutra 22 July, 2021 - 10:00am

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The state of California is suing Activision Blizzard over some of the most toxic workplace sexual harassment allegations leveled against the game industry, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The agency is seeking an injunction to force compliance with workplace protections, and for the company to settle up on unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for the women making the accusations.

The lawsuit (unearthed first by Bloomberg Law) contains some of the most shocking descriptions of sexist and toxic workplace culture that we’ve covered on Gamasutra.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing described the company as having a “frat boy” culture, and alleges that a largely male workforce would regularly deny promotions to female employees, engage in sexual banter, and joke openly about rape in the workforce.

Women working at Activision Blizzard allege that they weren’t promoted because of the possibility they might become pregnant, were criticized for picking children up from daycare, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male employees could use the room for meetings.

That only scratches the surface of the allegations. The suit alleges that a female Activision employee died by suicide while traveling for work with a male supervisor. According to the lawsuit, she had suffered intense sexual harassment at the company, and fellow employees allegedly passed nude photos of her around at a company holiday party.

We've reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment, and will update this story if they respond.

Update: Activision Blizzard has publicly responded to the allegations, and argues in a statement sent to Gamasutra that it has already taken action to address the issues of misconduct disclosed in the lawsuit. Beyond that, the Blizzard statement makes the argument that the lawsuit "includes distorted, and in many cases false descriptions of Blizzard's past" and that, given "significant changes to address company culture" in the past several years, "the picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today." 

You can read the full Activision Blizzard statement below.

"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," said a company spokesperson.

"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 updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation focus, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the 'ASK List' with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many 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."

Copyright © 2021 Informa PLC Informa UK Limited is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 1072954 whose registered office is 5 Howick Place, London, SW1P 1WG.

Activision Blizzard Lawsuit Accuses Publisher of Harassment within Workplace

Push Square 22 July, 2021 - 10:00am

Alleges "toxic frat boy workplace culture"

Activision Blizzard, the publisher of franchises like Call of Duty and Overwatch, is being sued over incidents of discrimination and misconduct in the workplace, with claims that the company oversees a “frat boy” culture. The 29-page filing, as reported by Bloomberg Law, speaks of various instances of misconduct, including the “sexual harassment” of female employees.

The lawsuit has been tabled by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a state organisation tasked with “investigating and prosecuting civil rights actions” and it alleges of a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture” and cites a number of troubling examples.

It alleges that women have to “continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors” and also alludes to instances of “groping”. Some of the examples get increasingly disturbing, such as one known as the “cube crawl” 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 behaviour toward female employees”.

The lawsuit goes on with more alarming allegations, including examples of gender and race discrimination, demeaning behaviour, and much more. It adds that, while complaints were made internally at the company – including directly to Blizzard boss J. Allen Brack – the “defendants failed to take effective remedial measures in response to these complaints”.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is demanding a trial by jury. However, in response to the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard provided a statement to The Verge, describing it as “irresponsible behaviour from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California”. You can read its full rebuttal through here.

[source aboutblaw.com, via news.bloomberglaw.com, theverge.com, nintendolife.com]

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Activision Blizzard sued by California over widespread sexism, sexual harassment

Polygon 22 July, 2021 - 08:14am

Women at the company described a ‘pervasive frat boy culture’

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in a Los Angeles court, alleging that Activision Blizzard — and its subsidiaries, including Blizzard Entertainment — allows widespread sexism and discrimination across the company. Several top executives, including Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, are named in the lawsuit for knowing about and enabling this behavior. DFEH said it conducted a two-year investigation into Activision Blizzard before filing the lawsuit.

Allegations documented in the lawsuit are widespread: The investigation found that women account for only 20% of its employees, noting that “very few women ever reach top roles at the company.” Those that do, the DFEH said, earn less money than their male colleagues — something that allegedly trickles down through all positions at the company. In other instances, the lawsuit describes managers refusing to promote women.

“Women of color were particularly vulnerable targets of [Activision Blizzard’s] discriminatory practices,” DFEH said in the lawsuit. It also alleged that employees were “discouraged from complaining as human resource personnel were known to be close to alleged harassers.”

DFEH also likens Activision Blizzard’s culture to “a frat house,” where a culture of sexual harassment prevailed. One employee highlighted in the lawsuit said that “random male employees would [...] comment on her breasts.” The World of Warcraft team, too, is called out in the lawsuit for how its male employees would “hit on [female employees], make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior.”

Former World of Warcraft senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi was named as a top-level “harasser” who was “permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions.”

During a company event (an annual convention called Blizz Con) Afrasiabi would hit on female employees, telling him he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting his arms around them. This was in plain view of other male employees, including supervisors, who had to intervene and pull him off female employees.

Blizzard president Brack is alleged to have had “multiple conversations” with Afrasiabi about this conduct, but opted for “a slap on the wrist” in response, according to the suit. The DFEH said Afrasiabi “continued to make unwanted advances towards female employees, including grabbing a female employee’s hand and inviting her to his hotel room and groping another women.”

In a statement provided to Polygon, Activision Blizzard denied allegations of a sexist culture, calling the report “distorted, and in many cases false.” You can read the company’s full statement below.

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 introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many 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.

The DFEH was also involved in a gender-based discrimination lawsuit at Riot games in 2018, which was filed following a Kotaku investigation into the company’s sexist culture. The League of Legends developer was ordered to pay “at least $10 million” to women that have worked at Riot within a five-year period. A month later, the DFEH objected to the $10 million payout, saying the women were owed much more — as much as $400 million.

In the years following the Riot Games report, waves of video game developers and other industry members who say they’ve experienced harassment and toxic work cultures have come forward — resulting in multiple “#MeToo moments.” Wednesday’s lawsuit against Activision Blizzard has similarly ushered in a new round of game industry employees sharing stories of harassment, sexism, and racism they’ve faced at Activision Blizzard and elsewhere on social media.

Activision Blizzard sued by California following toxic workplace testimonys

Destructoid 22 July, 2021 - 06:00am

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed suit against developer/publisher Activision Blizzard over allegations that the studio has fostered a toxic work culture of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying, and chest-beating “Frat House” behavior. The suit, filed in the Superior Court of California on July 20, is the result of a two-year investigation by the agency, featuring testimony and evidence from a body of employees working at the studio.

Originally reported by Bloomberg Law, The DFEH’s lawsuit cites examples of abusive and harmful behavior within the company’s walls, seemingly almost always directed toward women or minority employees. The suit alleges that women working on the World of Warcraft team are frequent targets of unwanted advances, demeaning comments, and non-consensual physical contact. Male employees are accused of persistently engaging in sexual “banter”, including jokes about rape, while superiors exercise a tendency to play video games together while delegating their workload to the studio’s women employees. It is also alleged that certain company individuals have developed reputations for sexually aggressive behavior, portrayed by some staff as a celebratory personality trait.

Elsewhere in the document, an example is cited wherein an African-American woman — requesting a day off work — was asked to write a full-page document explaining what she intended to do with the free time — a request that is obviously not a part of the company’s policy. The lawsuit details an obnoxious “bro-culture” environment, citing impromptu events such as “Cube Crawls” where male employees drink “copious amounts of alcohol” while making their way through the offices engaging in “inappropriate behaviour toward female employees”.

Among the most shocking stories, however, is the report that an Activision Blizzard employee took her own life while on a company trip with a male supervisor. It is suggested that the employee had been previously harassed at work, allegedly having nude images shared at a company party. Activision Blizzard strongly denies that this particular evidence has any connection to company activities, saying that it was “sickened” by The DFEH’s “disgraceful and unprofessional” decision to include these events in the lawsuit.

The DFEH seeks a legal injunction to force Activision Blizzard to comply with workplace protection standards. Additionally, The DFEH is seeking pay adjustments, benefits, and lost/back pay for the studio’s women employees.

The State of California demands trial-by-jury.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson responded to the allegations with the following statement:

“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,” continues the statement. “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.”

“The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.”

Activision Blizzard is the latest in an increasingly long line of gaming studios to receive allegations of harboring a toxic workplace culture, particularly in the treatment of each company’s women employees.

In recent years, League of Legends developer Riot Games, Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry studio Ubisoft, former Skullgirls developer Lab Zero Games, and Detroit producer Quantic Dream have all faced serious allegations of abusive working environments. A 2018 lawsuit filed against Quantic Dream by a former employee was dismissed on appeal by a Parisian court earlier this year.

Filed under... #Activision Blizzard#Controversy#Lawsuit

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Every Activision Blizzard allegation—sexual banter, rape jokes, lower pay

Newsweek 22 July, 2021 - 05:09am

According to a major lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Activision Blizzard routinely paid women less than men, disciplined women in ways male employees never were, despite them displaying worse behavior, and was less likely to promote women at all levels.

The suit also alleges that the offices of the company—which is responsible for popular franchises such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft—were rife with sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.

Female staff were allegedly subjected to "cube crawls" in which male employees drank "copious amounts" of alcohol as they crawled their way through cubicles in the office and engaged in lewd behavior towards the female employees.

"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," the suit states.

"Unsurprisingly, Defendants' 'frat boy' culture is a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women."

The suit states that female workers at Activision Blizzard were subjected to constant sexual harassment, including having to "continually fend off unwanted sexual comments" and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors during the "cube crawls" and other company events.

The suit notes one incident when a female employee took her own life during a business trip with an unnamed male supervisor, who had brought sex toys and lubricant with him on the trip.

It is alleged that this female employee had been previously subjected to other incidents of sexual harassment at work. The suit claims that at a holiday party before her death, male co-workers passed around a picture of her vagina.

Activision Blizzard has denied the allegations made in the lawsuit, saying it contains "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions" of the company's past.

The company added that it was "sickened" by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's decision to mention the employee who died, saying her suicide had "no bearing whatsoever" on the case.

"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," the company added.

The California lawsuit also alleges that female employees working for the World of Warcraft team complained male employees and supervisors would hit on them and make derogatory comments about rape at work.

In one alleged incident, a male supervisor openly encouraged a male subordinate to "buy" a prostitute to cure his bad mood.

One person named in the suit is Alex Afrasiabi, the former senior creative director of World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment. He is accusing of engaging in "blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions," including attempting to kiss and grope female employees and calling them derogatory names at company events.

"Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the 'Crosby [sic] Suite'" after Bill Cosby, according to the lawsuit.

Cosby, who has always denied the allegations against him, was freed from prison in June after his conviction for sexual assault was vacated.

Activision Blizzard is also accused of discriminating against female employees on pay, promotions, opportunities and delegation of tasks.

The lawsuit states that the workforce is only about 20 percent female and the CEO and president roles "are now—and have always been—held by white men."

"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," the suit states.

The company is alleged to pay female employees a significantly lower starting salary than their male counterparts. Women were "overwhelmingly" assigned into lower grades/levels without stock and incentive opportunities, it is alleged, and often had to work harder and longer to earn the same opportunities for promotion as men.

In some cases, women were overlooked for promotion in favor of men who lacked the same experience or qualifications, but were friends with the male head of the unit.

Women were also allegedly discriminated against because of pregnancies or children. The suit claims one female employee had assumed some of the responsibilities of a manager, but when she asked to be paid fairly and actually promoted into such a position, her manager told her that they could not risk promoting her as "she might get pregnant and like being a mom too much."

Other female employees reported that they were criticized for leaving to pick up their children from daycare while their male counterparts were playing video games at the same time. Female staff were also allegedly kicked out of lactation rooms so employees could use the space for meetings.

The lawsuit claims women of color were "particularly vulnerable targets" of Activision Blizzard's discriminatory practices.

One Black woman said it took her two years to be made a permanent employee while men hired after her were made permanent a lot sooner.

She also claims she was micromanaged to such an extent that while her male co-workers were allowed to play video games on shift, her supervisor would call and check on her if she took a break to go for a walk.

Another African American employee claimed that when she requested time off work, she was made to write a one-page summary of how she would spend that time, which no one else was required to do.

"The male supervisor also criticized her body language despite male counterparts slouching in meetings and she was scolded for asking for assistance while others could get help on similar tasks without the same criticism," the suit states.

The lawsuit also alleges that Activision Blizzard executives and its human resources department failed to act on complaints made to them about discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

The company "failed to take effective remedial measures in response to these complaints. Employees were further discouraged from complaining as human resource personnel were known to be close to alleged harassers," the suit states.

The complaints were allegedly "treated in a perfunctory and dismissive manner and not kept confidential."

Female employees who spoke out were, the suit alleges, "subjected to retaliation, including but not limited to being deprived of work on projects, unwillingly transferred to different units, and selected for layoffs."

In a full statement addressing the claims in the lawsuit, given to The Verge and other news sites, Activision Blizzard said: "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 [Department of Fair Employment and Housing] 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 updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation focus, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the 'ASK List' with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns.

"We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many 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."

Newsweek has contacted Activision Blizzard for further comment.

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