Content warning: Sexual assault, rape
Activision Blizzard Inc. is currently being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after a two year investigation that found that the company discriminated against their female employees, Bloomberg Law reported last night. Filed on July 20, the complaint alleges that women in the workplace are faced with constant sexual harassment, unequal pay and retaliation.
As the company that houses Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and more, their games represent a diverse audience that isn’t reflected in their workforce. Women make up only 20% of the workforce, and upper management is overwhelmingly male and white. The lawsuit describes the work environment as a “pervasive frat boy work culture,” where women were faced with “cube crawls,” an event where “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 lawsuit alleges.
According to the agency’s complaint, women in the workplace were also often faced with sexual harassment and discrimination, dealing with constant sexual comments and advances by male workers and supervisors, as well as being groped during company events or “cube crawls.” The male employees would also play videogames while delegating their work to female employees, discuss their sexual encounters, talk about female bodies and joke about rape, the lawsuit says.
The agency alleges that the harassment and discrimination female employees faced came from up and down the company ranks and high-ranking executives and creators would engage in sexual harassment without repercussions. One female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor, after being faced with intense sexual harssment before her death, the complaint says.
Female employees also faced discrimination in terms of payment and job opportunities, with the complaint alleging that Activision Blizzard offered women “lower compensation and less lucrative job assignments and opportunities than their male counterparts.” Women also received less stock and have to work longer and harder for a promotion compared to the male employees, the complaint says.
The agency alleges that promotions were also not given due to “discriminatory practices against pregnant female employees,” where supervisors ignored medical restrictions and gave them negative evaluations while on medical leave. One female employee reported that she was criticized for picking her child up from daycare, and female employees were also kicked out of lactation rooms so that they could be used for meetings, the lawsuit says.
The agency is requesting 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,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to Bloomberg. “We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”
This lawsuit was filed roughly a year after Ubisoft faced allegations of sexual misconduct within the company. These problems are rampant throughout society, but the games industry seems especially filled with such toxic environments—which isn’t surprising, given the culture and mentality that the games industry has long fostered. Clearly not enough companies are doing enough to guarantee accountability and safety in the workplace. These incidents are not isolated and are further reminders that the workforce culture within the gaming industry desperately needs fixing.