California Accuses Activision Blizzard Of Shredding Abuse Evidence (Update)

California Accuses Activision Blizzard Of Shredding Abuse Evidence (Update)
Screenshot: Activision Blizzard

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.

Read More: Everything That Has Happened Since The Activision Blizzard Lawsuit Was Filed

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.

Comments

  • Senior people leaving, shredding evidence, unconscionable work practices – shouldn’t Bobby Kotick be stepping down around about now? No? Okay Activision / Blizzard.

  • Shredded documents, ouch that hurts Blizzards defence.

    If documents are gone, any attempt to explain or reproduce them is considered unreliable and hearsay. Shredded documents puts Blizzard on the back foot… cause it’s suspicious if they have a mountain of documents that say they are innocent, but all the documents the govt wanted to prove their guilt are recycled toilet paper.

    If they suddenly find the missing documents when subpoened, it proves the govt right they were hiding details during the investigation which reinforces their point.

  • I worked for a horrible, unconscionable place that did something similar, once.

    One of the senior managers was pissed off by a worker’s medical claim about workplace-induced chronic injury, and modifications they needed to make to accommodate her. They declined her medical claim, but the kicker is, the manager responsible modified her doctor’s report without anyone being aware of it. So when she appealed and the documents were pointed to as the reason for the rejection, it was trivially simple for her to go back to her doctor and produce the originals and compare.

    It never went to court. Instead, she laughed all the way to the bank, retiring with a fat payout (she wouldn’t say how much, but we did discover from Facebook that she bought a boat) while the manager went on ‘sabbatical’. Nothing was said officially about either departure, or the manipulated documents. We never saw either of them again, and the manager was replaced (by someone much dumber and just as criminal, but that’s another suite of stories).

  • Interesting statement from Blizzard there… they didn’t accuse DFEH of being wrong (distorted or false) like they did in the first statement when the case was first filed.

    • They kinda said the DFEH is wrong.
      “We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we do not have gender pay or promotion disparities.”
      If I’d found myself the victim of such a pay/promotion disparity, that line would set me the fuck off. God knows I’ve read enough twitter stories from ex-developers who left precisely because of that bullshit, detailing the disparities that caused them to snap and quit. Some of them had my blood boiling without me even being involved.

      If I were in DFEH, I’d be very curious as to how exactly they reckon they’d ‘proved’ that claim, especially if they’ve been fucky about the threshold they use before something counts as a disparity.

      • An easy way to prove that there is no gender pay gap would be to show that there are male devs on the same rate as the female devs complaining. Its irrelevant if there are some higher paid ones as long as there are some equal.

        I work in the government sector where there is no such thing as promotion. You want a more important job you apply for it along with everyone else. You might get it, you might not. I certainly wouldn’t go crying about sexism over it if they hired a person of another sex of all the times I’ve not gotten the higher jobs I went for.

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