Activision Blizzard is facing a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California (since expanded for QA and customer service contractors) alleging years of discrimination and harassment. In the immediate aftermath, the company called the lawsuit “irresponsible behaviour from unaccountable state bureaucrats that are driving many of the state’s best businesses out of California”. Since then, CEO Bobby Kotick has called the company’s initial response “tone deaf”, employees staged a walkout, Blizzard president J Allen Brack left, and the ABK Workers Alliance demanded change at the company. The story, and subsequent events related to it, continue to be immensely important, and to reverberate throughout the game industry. This article outlines the key events so far, and we’ll keep updating it with further developments.
In September, an agency of the US federal government opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard’s response to sexual misconduct and discrimination complaints from its employees, as part of which Kotick has reportedly been subpoenaed. The company is also facing a separate unfair labour practice suit alleging “worker intimidation and union busting” filed by a workers’ union, also in September.
In another, separate development, Activision Blizzard reached an agreement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination”. In a subsequent letter to employees, the company has announced an end to forced arbitration, a $250 million initiative to improve diversity, and a major pay cut for Kotick.