Last week, the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, accusing the company of a “frat-boy culture” that oppresses women and other marginalized groups through means including payment gaps, unequal promotion, sexual harassment, and more.
On July 23, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack sent out an email addressing the ongoing lawsuit. He called the reported behavior “extremely troubling” and said that he’d be “meeting with many of you to answer questions and discuss how we can move forward.”
But the responses from the Activision Blizzard board failed to soothe the employee’s rage. In a public statement, employees said that the company’s open letters have led them to “believe that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.”
Activision Blizzard employees walked out on their employer on July 28, with the following demands:
1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to the aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues
Seeing the initial responses failed to meet the employees’ needs, CEO Bobby Kotick echoed their voices in a new statement. He referred to Brack’s letter as “tone-deaf,” promising “swift action” that eliminates “discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.” Kotick also guaranteed that he’d review the company’s policies and procedures with law firm WilmerHale. Blizzard also stated that employees participating in the walkout would receive paid time off.
Kotick’s statement was somewhat favored by the employees, but many still believe that it “fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns.”
According to employees’ open letter in response to Kotick’s announcement, Activision Blizzard’s response did not address the following:
- The end of forced arbitration for all employees.
- Worker participation in the oversight of hiring and promotion policies.
- The need for greater pay transparency to ensure equality
- Employee selection of a third party to audit HR and other company processes.