Smith / Gado / Getty Collection
A “frat boy” environment plagued by sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. That’s what the state of California is accusing Activision Blizzard of through an explosive lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Department of Housing and Fair Employment (DFEH).
The DFEH lawsuit formally accuses Activision Blizzard of workplace discrimination. It alleges that the women not only receive unfair compensation, but are also subjected to considerable harassment. The DFEH called Activision Blizzard a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination,” in which women are subjected to regular sexual advances by men, often of high rank, who largely go unpunished.
Editors’ Top Picks
Subscribe to CNET Now for the most interesting reviews, news and videos of the day.
“Women and girls now make up nearly half of gamers in America, but the gaming industry continues to serve men,” the lawsuit says, “Activision-Blizzard’s double-digit growth rate, annual revenue ten-figure figures and recent diversity marketing campaigns have sadly changed little. “
Activision Blizzard, which publishes titles like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, and had revenues of more than $ 8 billion last year, is the latest in a line of gaming giants to face criticism over workplace culture. The CEO of Riot Games, the company behind the popular League of Legends, was accused of sexual harassment in February by a former employee, just one year after he paid $ 10 million to more than 1,000 women to settle a discrimination lawsuit. Last year’s conferences from allegations of sexual harassment at Ubisoft, which publishes Assassin’s Creed, led to the resignation of three executives.
An example of the claims the DFEH is making against Activision is an office ritual known as “bucket dragging,” in which men allegedly drink “copious” alcohol, crawl around office cubicles, and engage in ” inappropriate behaviors “including groping. The lawsuit describes incidents faced, including allegations that an employee committed suicide while on a business trip as a result of a toxic relationship with a supervisor.
Activision-Blizzard firmly rejected the claim in a statement sent to the media. “The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” he said, accusing the state department of presenting a hasty and inaccurate report. The company said it was “sick” from the inclusion of the “tragic suicide of an employee whose death is unrelated” in the case.
“The image that DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and since the initial investigation began, we have made significant changes to address company culture and reflect greater diversity within our teams of leadership.
Beyond workplace harassment, the DFEH lawsuit also alleges systematic discrimination against women. Women are paid less for the same job, the lawsuit alleges, and are subject to a higher level of scrutiny. The department criticized Activision-Blizzard for employing fewer women than men – it said 20% of the company’s employees were women – and for its exclusively white and male “superior leadership.” Of the 12 leadership positions listed on company website, three are occupied by women.