Activision Blizzard, the nation’s second leading gaming company, has been under intense public scrutiny for its troubled “frat boy” culture of sexual harassment and discrimination. The company’s shares have taken a hit as more information continues to come to light.
In its latest move to bury the scandal, the company attempted to limit the scope of an ongoing lawsuit with the state civil rights agency, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The move was unsuccessful – at least so far.
The Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Activision Blizzard
Last summer, the DFEH filed suit against Activision Blizzard alleging discrimination and mistreatment of female workers. The allegations paint a picture of a toxic work environment where female employees are subjected to harassment, groping, and discriminatory treatment.
The company is trying to exclude temporary and contingent employees from the scope of the lawsuit, arguing that the DFEH didn’t give them prior notice that those employees were included in its 2-year-long investigation. A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge issued a tentative decision in favor of the DFEH. The judge reasoned that temporary and contingent employees do fall under the definition of “employee” in the relevant provisions of California law. Moreover, the judge found that the company treated them like employees in their day-to-day work.
The Company’s History of Questionable Tactics
Activision Blizzard’s attempt to limit the lawsuit is only one of several questionable tactics the company has used to challenge the discrimination allegations. The state says the company has been engaging in multiple underhanded strategies to avoid accountability, including attempting to buy off female employees to put the suit to rest.
The Santa Monica-based company is also facing a federal lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and has filed a proposed $18 million settlement. California is attempting to intervene in that lawsuit. If it does, the proposed settlement would likely skyrocket.
One of the company’s subsidiaries, Raven Software, has also been mired in allegations of illegal union-busting. It’s currently facing a complaint before the National Labor Relations Board.
Will Microsoft’s Acquisition Change the Culture?
In January, Microsoft announced that it is acquiring Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. The deal, set to close in 2023, will boost Microsoft’s position in the worldwide gaming industry. However, it’s unclear whether the acquisition will change the tide of the company’s culture or provide justice for female employees.
Activision Blizzard’s controversial CEO, Bobby Kotick, will be allowed to remain on – at least until the deal closes. This concession doesn’t bode well for the company’s culture, given Kotick’s role in the unfolding allegations and litigation.