A look at the Activision Blizzard workplace harassment lawsuit

World of Warcraft and Diablo creator Activision Blizzard fostered a pervasive “frat boy” culture where female employees were subjected to constant sexual harassment, lower wages and retaliation, according to a lawsuit filed this week by the California Department of Fair Employment Housing.

The agency sued the gaming company on Tuesday after conducting a two-year investigation into the workplace culture of the Santa Monica-based company, which found that men and bosses torment women and executives did not take complaints seriously.

In the office, women have been subjected to “cube crawls” where male employees drink “large” amounts of alcohol and crawl to various cubicles in the office and “often engage in inappropriate behavior towards female employees.” including fiddling with them, the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit said.

The complaint said male employees were “proud” to have hangovers at work and play video games in the office, delegating their work to female employees. The behavior also included joking about their sex, talking openly about female bodies, and joking about rape.

“Female employees almost universally confirmed that working for (Activision) was akin to working in a fraternity house, which invariably involved male employees drinking and subjecting female employees to sexual harassment without repercussions,” the complaint states.

Employees should resist unwanted sexual comments and advances from male colleagues and supervisors. The lawsuit cited an example where an employee, who was the victim of harassment, committed suicide while on a business trip with a male supervisor.

The top executives of the 9,500-employee company are all white men, according to the lawsuit, and very few women reach top positions and those who do earn less than their male counterparts.

Women represent 20% of the company’s workforce.

Despite complaints filed with the company’s human resources department and executives, no corrective action was even taken, according to the complaint. Women who lodged a complaint have faced reprisals, including being ignored to work on projects, transferred to other units and selected for dismissal.

The state agency is seeking an injunction forcing respect for workplace protections as well as unpaid wages, wage adjustments, wage arrears and loss of wages and benefits for employees.

In a statement, the company accused the agency of using distorted and false descriptions of Blizzard’s past.

“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusiveness for everyone. There is no room in our business or our industry, or in any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind, “said an Activision Blizzard spokesperson. “We take every allegation seriously and investigate all complaints. In cases of misconduct, steps have been taken to resolve the issue.”

The problem of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination in tech companies are not new. the Communication Workers of America is behind an effort launched last year to unionize video game and tech companies for working conditions as well as ethics and culture.

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