Activision Blizzard: understand the scandals in the studio bought by Microsoft

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Announced as yet another video game studio that will belong to Microsoft, Activision Blizzard will not only pass on its heritage of classic games that are widespread among the gaming public, but also a very delicate scenario of lawsuits that made the company the center of scandals and accusations of discrimination and harassment against employees.

In July 2021, when Activision Blizzard was sued by the California Department of Fair Labor and Housing (DFEH, its acronym in English) after complaints about the harassment culture widely active in the company.

The allegations were of sexual, physical and moral harassment against women, including a salary difference.

According to the DFEH, executives and human resources were aware of the discrimination that took place “and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the illegal conduct, and instead retaliated against women who complained”. According to reports from former employees, women often had to deal with sexist and sexual comments.

AT CNN, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said at the time that the company was taking the allegations seriously and that it had “initiated an internal investigation process for all claims.”

A short time later, still in July 2021, employees created a petition against the company’s “abominable” response to the lawsuit. In an internal statement in response to the allegations, Frances Townsend, vice president for corporate affairs at Activision Blizzard, said the reported cases were “incorrect, old” and “out of context.”

The petition, signed by more than 2,000 employees, described the statements as “abominable and insulting to everything we believe our company should stand for” and that the values ​​were not being “accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership”.

The petition called for seriousness from the company regarding the allegations, as well as significant initiatives on the part of executives to create a safe place to openly address the cases.

Almost immediately, Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, admitted that the company’s answer was wrong.

The statement came hours after workers organized a protest strike on July 28. In a statement, the CEO apologized for not having handled the situation properly and that he would be committed to doing a better job. “Every voice matters — and we’ll do a better job of listening now and in the future. I regret that we have not provided the right empathy and understanding.”

According to a document obtained by the CNN Business, the protest was intended to “improve conditions [de trabalho] for employees, especially women, particularly black and transgender women, non-binary people and other marginalized groups.” The protesters also called for the hiring of a third-party auditing firm to conduct the internal investigation, including the human resources and executive areas.

On the same note, Kotick announced the hiring of legal consultancy WilmerHale. The CEO also said that Activision Blizzard would be “immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the company” and would commit to firing anyone found to have misconduct.

In September 2021, Activision Blizzard was sued again after California’s National Labor Relations Board received allegations that the company was coercing workers with unfair labor practices to silence them. According to the lawsuit, the company “threatened employees by preventing them from talking or communicating about wages, hours and working conditions.” In addition, the company would have also been involved in interrogations of employees who protested against it.

Also on September 27, the company announced the creation of a US$ 18 million fund to end a lawsuit received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The fund was created to compensate for the accusations received by the company and that part would also be destined to “charities focused on harassment, gender equality and women in the video game industry” or also “used to create diversity and inclusion initiatives within the company. ”. This process was originated as a result of the initial action in July 2021 granted by the Department of Fair Work and Housing (DFEH).

The following month, in November 2021, Activision Blizzard faced a second protest after a report indicated that Bobby Kotick, the company’s CEO, had known about allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination for years.

More than 100 employees went on strike asking for the executive’s removal. In a video response, Kotick says the report was untrue and that it misrepresented Activision Blizzard, him and his work. In a statement, the company’s board of directors reiterated its support for the CEO. “The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability.”

Days after the protest, 800 employees signed a new petition for Kotick’s dismissal. The petition said that employees “did not trust” the leader anymore and asked him to step down as CEO and not influence the selection of a new executive.

In response, a company spokesperson stated that Activision Blizzard supported “the rights of employees to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation.” Kotick remained in office.

In October 2021, as a way to assuage the ongoing scandal, Kotick asked the Activision Blizzard Board to cut his salary “to the lowest amount that California law allows” until he could deal with allegations of discrimination and harassment. The CEO’s salary would be reduced from $155 million to $62,500.

In a letter to employees, Kotick said the move was part of a series of changes the company would be making, including an end to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination, a 50% increase in the number of women and non-binary people in the company. and a “zero tolerance for harassment” policy.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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