The state of California recently expanded its discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, Axios reports. In addition to suing the massive gaming conglomerate over its culture of harassment and abuse toward female employees, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing is now also looking into its treatment of temporary workers.
The updated lawsuit alleges that Activision Blizzard has not been cooperative with California’s investigation. It cites Activision Blizzard’s non-disclosure agreements, the requirement that employees must speak with the company before contacting the state department, and the hiring of union-busting law firm WilmerHale as examples of the company’s lack of cooperation.
Activision Blizzard is also accused of having human resources personnel destroy documents pertinent to California’s inquiry, which it’s required by law to keep and make available to investigators.
The expansion of the lawsuit’s scope comes two weeks after news broke about the terrible working conditions in Activision Blizzard’s various quality assurance offices, many of which hire contract workers rather than salaried employees to avoid paying out benefits. And while poor pay, long hours, and lack of job security are bad enough, some sources also spoke of discriminatory attitudes toward trans workers.
“The legacy of Blizzard is all about, ‘You’re working for Blizzard, aren’t you lucky?’” one anonymous tester told Kotaku. “But the reality is that we are constantly dealing with difficult people, in a culture that cares little for mental health and expects the same kind of ‘smile-all-the-time’ as retail does. The only way for this to truly change is to change the culture and the attitude of the people in charge.”
Activision Blizzard, which develops and publishes a slate of high-profile games including Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch, has been a lightning rod for criticism following the state of California’s original July 20 lawsuit coming to light. Since then, employees staged a massive walkout, a second lawsuit was filed, and several notable figures have departed the company for their alleged roles in fomenting the abuse or allowing it to continue.
But hey, a new Call of Duty is coming out, so I guess it’s not all bad. Activision’s even done everyone a favour by obscuring the fact it’s involved in the game’s development. What a company!
Update 12:50pm AEST: An Activision Blizzard spokesperson provided Kotaku with a statement regarding the lawsuit expansion. We’ve included it in full below.
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 behaviour with a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and other actions that diminish or marginalize.
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.
In a follow-up email, the spokesperson also denied the state of California’s allegations that Activision Blizzard shredded evidence vital to the case.