Sex and Gender Discrimination at Activision

After a two-year investigation, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against Activision in July, 2021, alleging that the company "fostered a pervasive 'frat boy' workplace culture" that is "a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women."

In September, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also filed a lawsuit against Activision, for, "Subjecting female employees to sex-based discrimination, including harassment, based on their gender. Retaliating against female employees for complaining about sex-based discrimination, based on their gender. [and] Paying female employees less than male employees, based on their gender."

The EEOC reached a settlement with Activision, but the DFEH lawsuit is ongoing, and the DFEH and a former Activision employee have appealed the EEOC settlement.

Worker Committee Against Sex & Gender Discrimination

The Worker Committee Against Sex & Gender Discrimination is made up of current and former Activision-Blizzard employees with the goal to address discrimination, including sexual harassment and create a safe work environment for all workers. It is imperative that workers have a voice in Activision Blizzard’s anti-discrimination policies – and with that goal in mind, we are demanding the following policy and procedure changes and worker participation going forward. 

Call to End Gender Inequity at Activision Blizzard

The following is a list of demands to end gender inequity at Activision Blizzard. We, as workers who are closest to these issues, banded together to create these demands to lead by example and foster a positive workplace culture. 

 

EEO Coordinator / Policies 

Why this matters: Activision Blizzard Leadership has been making all of the decisions regarding employee labor matters. Employees need a say in what policies are for their best interests. Policies and draft policies must be shared with the committee to ensure matters are handled appropriately and effectively, allowing feedback before implementation.   

  • Management gives this committee all current policies and codes of conduct for this worker committee to analyze and assess.

  • Anti-discrimination worker committee works with the EEO coordinator/review EEO coordinator suggestions and offer revisions before the coordinator submits to management. The committee and EEO coordinator meet every other week to discuss. 

  • Require signature or sign off from the worker committee that they saw and signed off on the final recommendations for each policy and policy suggestion

  • Run through DE&I committees as well before EEO coordinator sends change to management

HR Meetings 

Why this matters: HR has a history of gross negligence in sexual harassment and discrimination disputes. Blizzard’s former head of Human Resources was pictured in the infamous “Cosby Suite” photo with developers named in the DFEH lawsuit as well. There are numerous reports of HR actively participating in the sexual harassment and discriminatory workplace culture. HR also has a track record of bullying employees who make these types of reports out of the company.

  • No quick human resources chats that are undocumented and individual

  • All employees have permission to include committee members, coworkers, or a witness in meetings.

  • There should be a written agenda of every invitation to meet with human resource or people do not have to accept the meeting

End of all mandatory arbitration

  • Employees opening discrimination cases, including sex harassment, will be able to take the company and their abuser to court. This should be written into policy and should be universal for all claims.  

  • Do not require the claimant to sign a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement in regards to antidiscrimination suits. However, claimants may explicitly request nondisclosure or nondisparagement clauses.   

Protection from Retaliation

  • Within 180 days days of filing a claim, or until resolution of the dispute, if an employee is demoted, removed from their team, or their work changes in other ways (work gets taken away from them for instance, or they are disciplined) that action is presumed to be retaliation. 

Independent Investigations

  • All claims of  discrimination, including sex harassment,  are to be investigated  by a committee of non biased, independent, unaffiliated, outside third party investigators. Any investigation or investigator found to have been connected to the c-suite or impacted parties needs to be reinvestigated. If the investigator has any connection to ABK, they must disclose this prior to the investigation. 

  • Targets of discrimination, including sex harassment, are to be provided with a summary of their complaint, charge findings, and results once the complaint is completed, and not before. Each interaction, all evidence, and any lack of evidence, within said investigations must be comprehensively documented.

Trans and Non-Binary Employee Protections and Workplace Improvements 

Why this matters: While ABK management does provide comment on many social issues at the behest of its employees, it is typically very silent on those most concerning to our transgender and non-binary employees. Trans and non-binary representation in upper management and current company-led diversity initiatives is severely lacking. With many states actively passing legislation which threatens the physical and mental health of our transgender coworkers, our company has a responsibility to uplift the voices of these marginalized groups and ensure both their safety and continued access to life saving healthcare.

  • Support for pre, during, and post transition physical and mental health needs, including ensuring that our company health insurance always covers affordable gender affirming healthcare.

  • Use an employee’s provided preferred name. Legal names should only be used in terms of pay and only where necessary. Legal names should never be used externally without the employee’s consent. Updating of names in all tools to delete and deactivate deadnames. Managers should receive training for pronouns and preferred names, and avoid deadnaming as its discriminatory.

  • A trans woman should be appointed to the ABK Women’s Network Leadership and included in Women's Network meetings

  • Include trans women in Women’s History Month (including social media posts and highlights) March 1st - 31st

  • Create a Trans and Non-binary Network to foster support in a safe environment with mentorship and solidarity among trans and non-binary employees. Use successful networks such as the women’s network and veteran networks as an example.

  • Provide an advisory committee of members of the trans and nonbinary community. This committee will provide support for HR, recruiting, and employees at large to ensure that questions and support regarding the transgender experience are answered quickly, thoroughly and authentically.

  • End generic medical disclosure forms for all leave requests. Disclosures should be limited to confirming the specific reason for the leave and nothing further.

Parental Leave and Accomodations 

Why this matters: Workers have been asking for parental accommodations for a long time. Parents are often seen as an afterthought when game development companies talk about benefits. Parents need better work-life balance to effectively develop video games and be present in their child or childrens' lives. ABK must provide child care assistance, through providers or stipends during, but not limited to, crunch time.

  • Parents are given 12 weeks as paid time off to bond with their new baby

  • The person cannot lose their position during this time. They will receive 100 percent of their normal compensation. This compensation cannot impact non-compensatory benefits.  

Lactation Protections

Why this matters: Activision Blizzard has a history of discrimination towards employees who lactate. We have substantiated reports that private rooms were not properly equipped and that breast milk was being stolen. Here are some examples of the issues the ABK workers have reported:

  • The chairs in the private rooms rock backwards and cannot lock into a position to properly pump. Many workers have to sit on the floor to pump.

  • The tables were made of wood with a porous and textured finish, making them difficult to clean. This resulted in an unsanitary and unsightly residue of caked on human breast milk.

  • Insufficient and unsafe electrical outlets. Lack of available outlets for pumps and other equipment that would enable workers to continue working while pumping. Loose extension cords are used to add plugs to outlets already used by high-powered appliances and lighting.

  • Insufficient storage space. There is a lack of locked cubbies for workers to keep their pump safe. Many workers have to lug pumps across campus multiple times a day to prevent theft.

  • Insecure refrigerators. Installed padlocks were either inconsistently locked, or the fridges could be otherwise accessed by non-lactating employees. Breast milk was stolen from these fridges by non-lactating workers, and the fridges were also used by non-lactating workers to store alcoholic beverages.

  • Sanitation standards were not followed. These rooms were not cleaned and sanitized to the same standards as the rest of the office.

Lactation Policies

  • Lactating workers are provided the proper private room to safely do so. 

  • Entry into this room should be restricted to lactating employees or guests except for cleaning/sanitation/maintenance purposes unless accompanied by a lactating worker. A secondary non-keyed internal lock on the door must be provided to protect privacy while lactating.

  • Employer MUST provide the proper equipment to safely store breastmilk

  • Persons occupying the lactation room are equipped with the proper electricity and safety needs so they may continue to work from the room as needed.

  • Workers are to receive their normal pay rate and will be paid for this time.

Frontline Agent Toxicity Protection

Why this matters: When scandals happen, customer service and community managers often take the brunt of the backlash. After the Blitzchung incident receptionists received death threats. Leadership has done nothing to protect our Frontline workers. Often, these roles are expected to deal with constant harassment and abuse from players. They are also ultimately ignored when they speak out about the mental toll the abuse from customers and the community takes on them. Improving the relationship that our player community has with both our employees and each other is a critical step in making our player community healthier and helping our workers avoid mental health issues and burnout related to player harassment.

  • Customers caught harassing Customer Support, Community Managers, or other employees will receive suspensions or bans for the behavior in cases where their account information can be verified.

  • Workers must have access to an internal reporting method to create an incident report and flag reported users for additional investigation.

  • Depending on the severity and frequency of the harassment or discrimination, accounts found to be directing toxicity at frontline agents should be suspended, banned, and/or reported to the appropriate authorities