California expands Activision Blizzard lawsuit to include temporary workers

·Contributing Writer
·2-min read
Employees of the video game company, Activision Blizzard, hold a walkout and protest rally to denounce the companys response to a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit and to call for changes in conditions for women and other marginalized groups, in Irvine, California, on July 28, 2021. (Photo by DAVID MCNEW / AFP) (Photo by DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has expanded the scope of its sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard to include temporary workers. As first reported by Axios, the watchdog filed an amended complaint on Monday to redefine the group it plans to represent in the suit. The complaint now consistently references “workers” instead of “employees,” noting protections the state of California has in place to protect individuals from harassment and sexual discrimintation “exist for employees and contingent or temporary workers.”

The amended suit also alleges Activision Blizzard has used non-disclosure agreements to directly interfere with DFEH’s ability to investigate, prosecute and remedy the workplace violations that occurred at the company. Additionally, "documents related to investigations and complaints were shredded by human resource personnel," according to the agency.

In response to today's filing, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Engadget, "Throughout our engagement with the DFEH, we have complied with every proper request in support of its review even as we had been implementing reforms to ensure our workplaces are welcoming and safe for every employee. ...We strive to be a company that recognizes and celebrates the diverse talents and perspectives that lead to the creation of great, globally appealing entertainment." The statement is provided in full at the end of the article.

Following a two-year investigation into the company, DFEH last month accused Activision Blizzard executives of fostering a “frat boy” workplace culture. According to the agency, only 20 percent of all employees at the studio are women, and they’re consistently paid less, overlooked for promotions and fired faster than their male counterparts. Activision executives initially dismissed the lawsuit, claiming it included “distorted, and in many cases false descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”

Employees were quick to condemn the company’s response, calling it “abhorrent,” and they went on to stage a walkout at the end of July. Following the protest, Blizzard studio president J. Allen Brack, one of the executives named in the DFEH suit, stepped down, as did several other senior designers.

When Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick eventually pledged to take “swift action” to create a safe workplace, the company’s decision to bring in WilmerHale, a law firm that has a history of representing management on matters relating to unionizing, made many doubt the sincerity of his statements.

Update 6:13PM ET: Here's the complete response from an Activision Blizzard spokesperson:

Throughout our engagement with the DFEH, we have complied with every proper request in support of its review even as we had been implementing reforms to ensure our workplaces are welcoming and safe for every employee. Those changes continue today, and include:

· Several high-level personnel changes;

· Revamped hiring and recruiting practices requiring diverse interview panels;

· Greater transparency on pay equity;

· Expanded and improved training and investigative capabilities for human resource and compliance staff;

· Created investigation teams outside of business units to support greater independence;

· Restructured divisions to support greater accountability;

· Enhanced review processes to include evaluation of managers by employees;

· Clear boundaries on workplace behavior with a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and other actions that diminish or marginalize.

With regards to claims that we have destroyed information by shredding documents, those claims are not true. We took appropriate steps to preserve information relevant to the DFEH investigation.

We strive to be a company that recognizes and celebrates the diverse talents and perspectives that lead to the creation of great, globally appealing entertainment. We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we do not have gender pay or promotion disparities. Our senior leadership is increasingly diverse, with a growing number of women in key leadership roles across the company.

We share DFEH’s goal of a safe, inclusive workplace that rewards employees equitably and are committed to setting an example that others can follow.

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