Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty, WoW) is being investigated for sexist workplace practices

Blizzard Gamescom
Blizzard Gamescom (Image credit: Windows Central | Jez Corden)

What you need to know

  • Activision Blizzard builds games like World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Call of Duty.
  • California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging serious workplace malpractice on behalf of male staff towards female employees.
  • Activision Blizzard acknowledged that action had been taken, but called some of the allegations "distorted" in a statement to press.

California's department of fair employment and housing (DFEH) has filed a wide-reaching lawsuit against Activision Blizzard of World of Warcraft and Call of Duty fame (via Bloomberg Law), alleging sexist workplace practices, harassment, unequal pay and opportunities, and various other egregious abuses in a lengthy description of "frat-boy culture" across the company.

The lengthy investigation describes harrowing problems within the company, going as far to suggest an employee's suicide was the result of sexual harassment, involving nude photographs that were distributed among the studio's staff. Male employees were described as drinking alcohol at work, "while delegating their responsibilities to female employees," while they "engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape."

Activision responded to the explosive allegations in a lengthy statement, claiming that California's department for fair employment and housing included "distorted" and "false" descriptions of incidents at Blizzard, while acknowledging that other incidences of misconduct had occurred, but had been corrected. Activision also admitted that it knew and had co-operated with the investigation, although it aggressively denied the more serious charges, and attacked the DFEH for their allegations regarding an employee's death.

We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.""The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the 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 multi-year investigation was known to Activision Blizzard, who co-operated with the department. Blizzard also claimed that employees take regular harassment training sessions, and have multiple ways to report misconduct. The lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles' Superior Court, and you can read the full lawsuit brief over here.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!