The computer game studio behind the hit franchises Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush is facing a civil lawsuit in California over allegations of gender discrimination, harassment, and potential violations of the state’s equal pay law. A complaint, filed by the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing on Wednesday, alleges that Activision Blizzard Inc. “fostered a sexist culture” where women were paid but men and subjected to ongoing harassment including groping. (Activision and Blizzard Entertainment merged in 2008.)
Officials at the gaming company knew about the harassment and not only did not stop it but retaliated against women who spoke up, the complaint also alleges. Years after the web harassment campaign referred to as Gamergate targeted women within the computer game world, the California lawsuit depicts an industry that will still be unwelcoming and even hostile to female employees. “All employers should make sure that their employees are being paid equally and take all steps to stop discrimination, harassment, and retaliation,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. “This is particularly important for employers in male-dominated industries, like technology and gaming.”
In a statement provided to NPR, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said the corporate had worked to enhance its company culture in recent years and accused the DFEH of not adequately trying to resolve the claims against it before resorting to a lawsuit. “The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” the statement read. “The picture the DFEH paints isn’t the Blizzard workplace of today.” Women employees were paid less and assigned lower-level jobs, the complaint says The lawsuit alleges that Activision Blizzard’s female workers who spoke to investigators “almost universally confirmed” that their time at the corporate was “akin to working during a chapterhouse .”
Male employees drank on the work and came to figure hungover, the lawsuit said. The alleged harassment ranged from comments about women’s bodies and jokes about rape to the unwanted touching of female employees by their male peers. The complaint, which was the result of a two-year investigation by DFEH, claims that the unequal treatment of girls went beyond company culture to the more formal parts of their jobs. Women were allegedly paid but men, both once they were hired and through the course of their employment. They were also assigned to lower-level positions and omitted for promotions, despite doing more work than their male peers in some cases, consistent with the lawsuit. One woman said her manager told her she wouldn’t be promoted because “she might get pregnant and like being a mom an excessive amount of .”
The sex discrimination was even worse for ladies of color, the suit claims. a minimum of two African-American women reported being singled out and micromanaged. Some of the ladies who came forward with complaints of discrimination or harassment faced involuntary transfers, were selected for layoffs, or were denied certain opportunities, the suit said. Activision Blizzard says it doesn’t tolerate sexual misconduct, Activision Blizzard, in its statement, said it didn’t tolerate sexual misconduct or harassment and noted that investigated all claims, adding that it had been making it easier for workers to report violations. The company also said it strives to pay its employees “fairly for equal or substantially similar work” and make sure that pay is driven by “non-discriminatory factors,” like performance.
“We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as a civil right employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people, and that we are committed to continuing this effort within the years to return,” the spokesperson said. “It may be a shame that the DFEH didn’t want to interact with us on what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.” But several former employees took to social media Wednesday after the lawsuit was filed to corroborate a number of the allegations it contained. “Blizzard has claimed that the DFEH report is false/misleading/irresponsible,” former Blizzard Entertainment employee Cher Scarlett tweeted. “I can tell you that I knew what was getting to be during this report before I read it because during my time there – for less than a YEAR – I witnessed ALL of those THINGS.”