Activision Blizzard working with regulators to address, resolve workplace complaints as lawsuits pile up

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Activision Blizzard is working with regulators to address and resolve workplace complaints as a slew of lawsuits have piled up against the video game giant.

SEC INVESTIGATING ACTIVISION BLIZZARD OVER WORKPLACE PRACTICES, DISCLOSURES

The trouble began with a lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in July, which accused Activision of paying its female employees less than their male counterparts and providing them with fewer opportunities to advance, fostering a "frat boy workplace culture", and ignoring complaints by female employees of blatant harassment, discrimination and retaliation. The company issued a lengthy statement calling the DFEH's allegations "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past."

The response prompted a petition signed by over 2,000 former and current Activision Blizzard employees, who blasted the remarks as "abhorrent and insulting", and triggered a walkout demanding pay transparency, an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in employee contracts, more inclusive recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies, a third-party audit of the company's reporting structure, HR department and executive staff.

CEO Bobby Kotick proceeded to apologize for the company's "tone deaf" response and vowed to take multiple steps to ensure a safe and inclusive workplace, including hiring an outside law firm, WilmerHale, to review the company's policies. 

In addition to discrimination suit, a group of workers known as "ABetterABK" and the Communications Workers of America have since filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Activision of threatening employees who tried to talk about the company's wages, hours, working conditions, or ongoing investigations into the matters. It also claimed Activision threatened or disciplined employees who engaged in "protected concerted activity" and engaged surveillance and interrogation of those employees. 

A class action lawsuit has also been filed by Activision Blizzard shareholders, who say the company "artificially inflated" the value of the its stock and made "false and misleading statements" by withholding the complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

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Kotick confirmed on Tuesday that the video game giant continues to productively engage with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) with the goal of improving its workplace policies and procedures and ensuring compliance.

In addition, Activision said it is cooperating with an EEOC investigation concerning certain employment practices and complying with a subpoena issued to the company and several current and former employees and executives by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in regard to disclosures on "employment matters and related issues."

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
ATVIACTIVISION BLIZZARD, INC.72.81-0.22-0.30%

"We are deeply committed to making Activision Blizzard one of the best, most inclusive places to work anywhere. There is absolutely no place anywhere in our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind," Kotick said in a statement. "While we continue to work in good faith with regulators to address and resolve past workplace issues, we also continue to move ahead with our own initiatives to ensure that we are the very best place to work."

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In the weeks following the allegations, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack and head of global human resources Jesse Meschuk have departed the company. On Tuesday, Blizzard Entertainment's chief legal officer Claire Hart said she was moving on from the company after more than three years. 

"Friday was my last day," Hart said in a LinkedIn post. "The past three years have been full of unexpected twists and turns, but I feel honored to have worked with and met so many great people at Blizzard and across the Activision Blizzard businesses."

In addition, the company says it has "expanded training, performance management, and anti-harassment resources" and hired Disney human resources veteran Julie Hodges to serve as chief people officer and Delta Air Lines veteran Sandeep Dube to serve as chief commercial officer. 

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