A California government agency is suing Activision Blizzard, the video game maker that produces Call of Duty, on allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.
After a two-year investigation, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday with the Los Angeles Supreme Court that Activision was promoting a “Frat Boys” workplace culture. Executives have sexually molested women, the agency said, and male employees joked openly about rape and drank alcohol while showing themselves “inappropriate” to women in their cubicles at events known as “cube-crawling”.
The lawsuit added that women were routinely paid less than men for similar work and less likely to be promoted.
Activision’s workplace “is a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women,” the agency wrote. “Women are constantly exposed to sexual harassment, have to constantly fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances from their male colleagues and superiors, and are groped at the ‘Cube Crawls’ and other company events.”
In one case, according to the lawsuit, an employee died by suicide while on a business trip as a result of her sexual relationship with her male boss. Before her death, male colleagues are said to have shared explicit photos of the woman, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, previously reported by Bloomberg Law, said the company’s executives and human resources failed to respond to wrongdoing when notified.
In a statement, Activision said “the picture DFEH paints is not today’s Blizzard workplace,” adding that the company is trying to pay its employees fairly and has been working to improve its culture over the past few years to improve and improve diversity. Activision employees have received years of anti-harassment training, and the company said it has set up a confidential reporting line and a team to investigate employee concerns, among other things.
“There is no place for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind in our company, or in our industry, or in any industry,” wrote Activision. “In cases of misconduct, action has been taken to correct the problem.”
The company said California failed to properly discuss the allegations with Activision prior to the lawsuit, and it specifically blamed the agency for bringing up the employee’s suicide.
“It is this kind of irresponsible behavior by unaccountable state bureaucrats that is driving many of the best companies in the state out of California,” wrote Activision.
The state employment agency declined to comment. The lawsuit said Activision should compensate employees for outstanding wages, provide additional compensation and pay punitive damages.
Based in Santa Monica, California, Activision is valued at approximately $ 70 billion and employs nearly 10,000 people. The company has been criticized by its workers for wage differentials, especially as shareholders agreed to a wage package of just under $ 155 million for CEO Bobby Kotick in June, making him one of the highest-paid top managers in the country.
Allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination are anything but uncommon in the games industry, where game studio employees, especially at management level, are predominantly white and male. Last summer, dozens of women spoke out against such behavior, accused people of various companies of wrongdoing – including Activision and the French publisher Ubisoft – and called for further reform demands. The Employment Agency has also taken legal action against Riot Games, the League of Legends game maker, alleging sexual discrimination and harassment.