Activision Blizzard litigation and its aftermath explained

Activision Blizzard is facing a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California (since expanding to QA and customer service providers) alleging years of discrimination and harassment. Immediately after, the company called the lawsuit “irresponsible behavior by irresponsible state bureaucrats who drive many of the state’s best companies out of California.” Since then, CEO Bobby Kotick has called the company’s initial response “tone deaf,” employees staged a walkout, Blizzard President J Allen Brack left, and the ABK Workers Alliance demanded change in the company. The story and subsequent events related to it, continue to be immensely important and resonate throughout the gaming industry. This article outlines the most important events so far and we will keep updating it with further developments.

In September, an agency under the US Federal Government launched an investigation into Activision Blizzard’s response to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination by its employees, part of which Kotick has reportedly been sued. The company is also facing a separate case of unfair labor practices with allegations of “workers ‘threats and union dismantling” filed by a workers’ union, also in September.

In another, separate development, Activision Blizzard reached an agreement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination.” In a subsequent letter to employees, the company has announced an end to forced arbitration, a $ 250 million initiative to improve diversity and a major pay cut for Kotick.

A new report released in November now claims that Bobby Kotick was aware of and suppressed reports of sexual misconduct. Kotick has responded with an official statement saying the Wall Street Journal article “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our business, of me personally and my leadership.” In response, Activision Blizzard’s board of directors stated that it “remains confident” about Kotick’s management.

However, seniors from Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo have expressed concern over what has been raised in the report, in which Xbox chief Phil Spencer told staff that the company “evaluates all aspects” of its relationship with Activision Blizzard and makes “ongoing proactive adjustments” (via Bloomberg and Fanbyte).

More than 1,700 Activision Blizzard employees have also subsequently signed a petition calling for Kotick’s resignation, although the Wall Street Journal reports that the CEO has told top management that he would only consider quitting if he could not solve workplace problems. “quickly”.

In December, The Game Awards hosted Geoff Keighley confirmed that Activision Blizzard, in addition to its nominations, would not participate in the show. “Game Awards are a time of celebration for this industry, the greatest form of entertainment in the world,” he said at the time. “There is no room for abuse, harassment or predation in any business or any community.”

Separately, a group of employees at Raven Software – a wholly owned Activision subsidiary – staged a work stoppage after management allegedly told 12 game testers that their contracts would not be made permanent. We contacted Activision Blizzard about this and received the following response: “Activision Publishing is increasing its total investment in its development and operating resources. We will be converting approximately 500 temporary staff to full-time employees in the coming months. Unfortunately, as part of this change, we have also announced 20 temporary staff across studies that their contracts would not be extended. “

As shared by employee-led group A better ABK, QA staff from Treyarch and Blizzard have hosted their own walkouts in solidarity.

From December 9, 2021, Activision Blizzard employees have started launching a bid for union with ABK Workers Alliance advertises new strike action and a support strike fund with a target of 1 million. “Today, ABK Worker’s Alliance announces the start of its strike,” the group said on Twitter. “We encourage our peers in the gaming industry to stand with us in creating lasting change.”

Treyarch staff also came together to release one announcement which is committed to providing a “safe, diverse and inclusive working environment”. It happened in the wake of study leader Dan Bunting leaving the company, following the Wall Street Journal’s report of November 16, in which he was allegedly sexually harassing an employee in 2017 (note: this report cites unpublished sources that PCGamesN does not has been able to verify independently). Bunting’s representatives have since told GameIndustry.biz that his departure was allegedly “the result of illegal actions by Activision Blizzard” and unrelated to the allegations. Activision Blizzard did not have a comment to offer when we reached out to this. The statement from Treyarch employees was shared to Twitter on December 21 and more Treyarch employees then confirmed that it was they who were pushing for its release.

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