The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is suing Activision Blizzard after an investigation found a workplace culture of harassment and “inappropriate behavior.”
The Santa Monica-based video game company, which is known for popular games such as World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, was investigated by the DFEH for two years where it concluded the Blizzard workplace was a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women,” according to a Bloomberg Law report.
In response to the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard executive president Frances Townsend called the claims “factually incorrect, old and out of context,” adding that the company takes a “hard-line approach” to environments of hostility or sexual harassment.
Jeff Hamilton, the senior system designer on the World of Warcraft game said Activision’s response to the allegations were “unacceptable,” adding that it is “evil to usurp a victim’s story into a rhetorical bludgeon, and it is abhorrent to reply to these accusations with anything other than a well-thought-out plan to correct these abuses.”
Hundreds of staff members shared Hamilton’s sentiment, signing a petition Monday, calling Activision’s response “abhorrent and insulting.”
Bloomberg reports that nearly 1,000 current and former employees, including many from the Irvine offices of Activision Blizzard, signed the petition saying:
“These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization. Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action – and the troubling official responses that followed — we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. ”
Joy Fields, who said she worked for the company between 2006 and 2012, voiced her opinion on the work environment and detailing moments of alleged harassment.
“Throughout my time at Blizzard I was constantly treated by men like a sex object,” Fields said in a Twitter note. “Men in positions of power would offer me trips and money if I would just go out on a date with them. A coworker would constantly ‘neg’ me as a way of flirting and just generally harass me. When I stood up for myself they would play the victim and tell me to calm down.”
Blizzard co-founder and former CEO Mike Morhaime responded to the reports saying harassment and discrimination “are prevalent in our industry,” and put the onus on the company’s leadership.
“I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences,” Morhaime said in his Twitter note. “I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down. I want to hear your stories, if you are willing to share them. As a leader in our industry, I can and will use my influence to help drive positive change and to combat misogyny, discrimination, and harassment wherever I can. I believe we can do better, and I believe the gaming industry can be a place where women and minorities are welcomed, included, supported, recognized, rewarded, and ultimately unimpeded from the opportunity to make the types of contributions that all of us join this industry to make. I want the mark I leave on this industry to be something that we can all be proud of.”
Allegations of harassment have hit the gaming world in the past, with Riot Games Inc. being investigated by the DFEH in 2018. A class-action lawsuit was filed soon after by women who worked for the company. A $10 million settlement for the class action suit was proposed in 2020, but the DFEH blocked it, saying the women may be entitled to $400 million based on wage disparity.