Warning: This article deals with the topic of mental health, and has mentions of suicide and harrassment. It may be triggering for some. If you or someone you love is in need of support, Lifeline (13 11 14) is available 24/7, free of charge.
Parents of an Activision Blizzard employee who died by suicide on a 2017 work retreat at Disneyland are now suing the Call of Duty publisher alleging workplace sexual harassment contributed to their daughter’s wrongful death. Activision Blizzard had previously dismissed the tragedy as having “no bearing whatsoever” on allegations of misconduct at the company.
Janet and Paul Moynihan filed the lawsuit on March 3 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming sexual harassment faced by Kerri Moynihan during her time at the company was “a substantial factor in causing her death by suicide.” Moynihan, who was 32 and a finance manager at Activision at the time, was found dead in her hotel room at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in Disneyland in April 2017.
According to the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Washington Post, the Moynihans were not aware of allegations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at Activision Blizzard until the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit last summer. Thought at first extremely dismissive of many of the allegations, Activision has since entered into a pending $US18 ($25) million settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over similar claims.
“We will address the complaint through the legal process as appropriate, and out of respect for the family we have no further comment at this time,” a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told The Washington Post.
Without directly naming her at the time, the July 2021 DFEH lawsuit referenced Moynihan’s suicide and the alleged sexual harassment that preceeded it:
In a tragic example of the harassment that Defendants allowed to fester in their offices, a female employee committed suicide while on a company trip due to a sexual relationship that she had been having with her male supervisor. …Another employee confirmed that the deceased female employee may have been suffering from other sexual harassment at work prior to her death. Specifically, at a holiday party before her death, male co-workers passed around a picture of the deceased’s vagina.
The Moynihans’ lawsuit now names Greg Restituito as the supervisor Kerri Moynihan was in a sexual relationship with. It also alleges that he originally lied to investigators about the relationship and removed items from Moynihan’s apartment after her death. According to the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard did not fully cooperate with the police investigation either, refusing to turn over Moynihan and Restituito’s work-issued laptops as well as Restituito’s cell phone, which the company claimed had been “wiped.”
At the time, Activision called it “reprehensible” for DFEH to “drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family.” The Moynihans’ lawsuit now argues the opposite. It describes a pattern by Activision of going to “ extraordinary efforts” to “suppress and cover up evidence” of alleged misconduct at the company. According to a November 2021 investigation by The Wall Street Journal, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick intervened to prevent Treyarch studio co-head Dan Bunting from being terminated for sexual harassment.
Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said he was “deeply troubled” by the allegations in The Wall Street Journal report, and over 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees called on Kotick to resign. Insead, Microsoft entered talks to purchase the embattled publisher for $US68.7 ($95) billion, and after the deal was announced in January praised Kotick’s leadership and “commitment to real change.”
Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Los Angeles Police Department had been subpoenaed for any police records related to Kotick and other senior people at Activision.
If you or someone you love is in need of support, Lifeline (13 11 14) is available 24/7, free of charge.