Legal action beginning in July of 2021 against the video game company Activision Blizzard has uncovered serious instances of abuse, rape, and suicide. Documents show that CEO Bobby Kotick knew about this mistreatment, and that the Human Resources department at Activision did nothing about numerous complaints for years.
Sexual harassment in the workplace creates a waking nightmare for employees. The harm done to their careers, financial prospects, and mental health are real, and sometimes even deadly. Holding toxic workplaces, bosses, and managers legally accountable for such abuse is one of the most powerful actions you can take.
The Pride Law Firm is part of a team of firms that have brought a class action suit against the Activision Blizzard company. If you need to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision Blizzard or any other degrading workplace, contact The Pride Law Firm at (619) 516-8166 right away. If you need more information on what happened at Activision Blizzard, read on.
What Happened at Activision Blizzard?
What began as an investigation into sexual and race-based harassment at Activision has now revealed horrific information about the severity of the abuse. The next section details the new revelations, but here is a brief timeline of the Activision Blizzard games sexual harassment saga of 2021:
- July 20: The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit with the Los Angeles Superior Court. It documented allegations of sex-based discrimination regarding pay, assignment, promotion, and termination. It also cited sexual harassment complaints against Blizzard CEO J. Allen Brack.
- July 21: Activision Blizzard leadership denied the allegations of racist conduct and sexual harassment by saying the complaint was “inaccurate,” “unprofessional,” and “disgraceful.”
- July 23-26: Former employees began to speak publicly about what they endured and witnessed, and production was paused on the popular game World of Warcraft in response.
- July 27: Employees in California held a walk-out and submitted a list of demands, including an end to arbitration clauses, and transparency in pay. World-wide employees joined the walk-out with digital sign-outs. Activision hired corporate law firm WilmerHale to conduct an internal investigation, a firm known for its union-busting tactics.
- July 28: Another walk-out denounced the sexist culture at Activision Blizzard, and Kotaku reporter Ethan Gach published details of a so-called “Cosby Suite” that was named in the DFEH lawsuit. It was a nickname given to a hotel room at BlizzCon in 2013, referencing convicted rapist Bill Cosby. Several male employees posed with a framed photo of Cosby in that hotel suite.
- July 31: A new allegation from Security researcher Emily Mitchell said she was harassed by Blizzard recruiters at a 2015 job fair, who asked her if she “liked being penetrated.”
- August 3: Blizzard President J. Allen Brack stepped down from his position, and was replaced by co-leaders Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra. A class-action lawsuit was filed against Activision Blizzard by its investors, alleging that the company misled them about the 5-year investigation that resulted in the DFEH lawsuit.
- August 4: Jesse Meschuk, the senior Vice President of global human resources, also left Blizzard in the wake of allegations that he oversaw and ignored widespread employee abuse.
- August 6: Kellogg’s Company ended its sponsorship relationship with Blizzard, a major blow to their revenue and advertising profits.
- August 11: Luis Barriga, director of Diablo 4, and game designers Jesse McCree and Jonathon LeCraft were terminated from Activision Blizzard. McCree and LeCraft were two of the men pictured in the “Cosby Suite” photo from 2013.
- August 24: The DFEH lawsuit was expanded to include not only full time employees, but temp workers and contractors who were harassed or harmed. The suit was also amended to accuse Activision Blizzard’s HR of shredding evidentiary documents.
- September 27: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against Activision Blizzard regarding violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws gender discrimination and harassment. Activision Blizzard responded by promising to provide an $18 million victim compensation fund in an agreement with the EEOC.
- October 20: Activision Blizzard asked for a stay in the DFEH lawsuit so it could investigate two of the DFEH lawyers. They stated the lawyers had a conflict of interest because they previously worked with the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission.
- October 25: The requested stay was denied by a Los Angeles Court.
- October 26: Blizzard canceled 2022’s BlizzCon until they could ensure their events were more “safe, welcoming, and inclusive.”
The lawsuits against Activision Blizzard are still pending, and for those who have a case against them, you can have your voice heard by contacting Jessica Pride and The Pride Law Firm at (619) 516-8166. The energy of the #MeToo movement is still going strong, with survivors coming together to find justice and create a better future.
What Are the Latest Activision Blizzard Sexual Assault Accusations?
Though there are many types of sexual assault, a general sexual harassment definition is unwelcome or inappropriate behavior like sexual remarks or physical advances in a professional or social situation. In the Activision Blizzard lawsuit, sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination are clearly documented. Those accusations include:
- Discrimination on the basis of race and gender, with women of color described as “particularly vulnerable targets”
- Sexual harassment in the form of a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture” that encouraged behavior like drinking on the job for male higher-ups, rape jokes, and “cube crawls” where women were groped and leered at while performing their job duties
- Sexual assault in the form of rapes allegedly perpetrated in 2016 and 2017 by an Activision employee’s male supervisor—these were stated in an email from the employee’s attorney to CEO Bobby Kotick in 2018 and settled out-of-court
- Abuse in the form of retalitions, demotions, and dismissals for filing complaints, illegal tactics that threaten the livelihood of employees and the financial stability of their families
- Suicide of a female employee on a company trip that resulted “due to a sexual relationship she was having with her male supervisor”
These are the allegations made in the original lawsuit, but November of 2021 revealed two new damning pieces of information. First, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick knew of this toxic behavior for years previous to the DFEH lawsuit. Second, the discriminatory practices are still happening to the newly appointed (and recently resigned) female Co-Leader of Blizzard, Jen Oneal. Here are those details:
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick
On November 16, a new report by the Wall Street Journal showed that Bobby Kotick not only knew about sexual abuse allegations at the company for years, he actively withheld that information from the company’s board. This contradicts his initial denials of the allegations in Activision’s first response to the DFEH lawsuit.
The email sent regarding rapes in 2016 and 2017 referred to incidents that a female employee reported to HR and her other supervisors, but no one took action. It was only after she left the company and hired an attorney that any acknowledgment was made in a private, out-of-court settlement where the terms are unknown.
The people managing Activision Blizzard through this incident are still the very people who allowed the rot to fester.
Blizzard Co-Lead Jen Oneal
Even when old management is replaced, the culture at Activision Blizzard is still toxic. Case in point, the now former co-leader of Blizzard, Jen Oneal, who left the position after three months due to more discrimination.
After Blizzard president J. Allen Brack resigned on August 3, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra stepped in as co-leaders. By November 2, Oneal had stepped down. In the same report exposing Activision’s Kotick of complicity in company-wide sexual abuse, the reason for Oneal’s departure were also revealed.
Oneal herself had previously experienced harassment at Blizzard. In taking on a leadership role, she saw it as an opportunity to steer the company in a healing direction. Instead, she was “tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against” as a gay Asian-American woman, according to her own statement. She was also infuriatingly paid less than Mike Ybarra, her male counterpart in a co-equal position.
Oneal stated she was only offered a contract equal to Ybarra’s after she resigned, and despite both of them asking for pay parity (equality) together. According to Oneal, those joint requests were repeatedly rejected by the company.
Even as Activision Blizzard scrambles to suppress these details and put on a new face for investors, their discriminatory practices persist. Companies as large as this global gaming empire have systematic problems that must be fully revealed and completely changed from the top down.
How Can You Help Eliminate Toxic Workplace Harassment?
The Activision Blizzard sexual harassment lawsuit of summer 2021 was only the beginning. According to Forbes, Activision’s stock shares have plunged nearly 26% since the initial allegations, wiping out a significant portion of their gains during a year of pandemic lockdown game-playing, and bringing down their market value by nearly $19 billion.
As this case gains attention, more people feel safe enough to speak their truths about the behavior at Activision Blizzard and at other corporations and companies, large and small. This is the benefit that legal action has: it shines a light in dark corners, and helps free people from silence.
If you have a story to tell about workplace harassment and need legal representation, reach out to The Pride Law Firm through our online contact form or by calling (619) 516-8166. We are currently in the process of holding Activision Blizzard accountable, and are ready to fight for you too.