A California government agency is suing Activision Blizzard, the video game maker that produces Call of Duty, on allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.
After a two-year investigation, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday with the Los Angeles Supreme Court that Activision was promoting a “Frat Boys” workplace culture. Executives sexually harassed women, the agency said, and male employees joked openly about rape and drank alcohol while showing themselves “inappropriate” to women in their cubicles at events known as “cube-crawling”.
The lawsuit added that women were routinely paid less than men for similar work and less likely to be promoted.
Activision’s workplace “is a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women,” the agency wrote. “Women are constantly exposed to sexual harassment, have to constantly fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances from their male colleagues and superiors and are groped at the ‘Cube Crawls’ and other company events.”
In one case, according to the lawsuit, an employee died by suicide while on a business trip as a result of her sexual relationship with her male supervisor. Before her death, male colleagues are said to have shared explicit photos of the woman, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit that was previously reported by Bloomberg Law, said the company’s executives and human resources did not bring up the misconduct when they were informed about it.
In a statement, Activision said “the picture DFEH paints is not today’s Blizzard workplace,” adding that the company tries to pay its employees fairly and has worked to improve its culture over the past few years to improve and improve diversity. Activision employees have been taking part in anti-harassment training for years, and the company said it has set up a confidential reporting line and a team to investigate employee concerns, among other things.
“There is no place for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind in our company, or in our industry, or in any industry,” wrote Activision. “In cases of misconduct, action has been taken to correct the problem.”
The company said California failed to properly discuss the allegations with Activision prior to the lawsuit, and it specifically blamed the agency for bringing up the employee’s suicide.
“It is this kind of irresponsible behavior by unaccountable state bureaucrats that is driving many of the best companies in the state out of California,” wrote Activision.
The state employment agency declined to comment. The lawsuit said Activision should compensate employees for outstanding wages, provide additional compensation and pay punitive damages.
Based in Santa Monica, California, Activision is valued at approximately $ 70 billion and employs nearly 10,000 people. The company has was criticized by its workers for differences in wages, especially as shareholders scarce approved a salary package of $ 155 million for CEO Bobby Kotick in June, making him one of the The highest paid top executives in the country.
Allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination are far from uncommon in the games industry, where the game studio workforce, especially at management level, is predominantly white and male. Last summer, Dozens of women spoke up against such behavior and accuse employees of various companies of misconduct – including Activision and the French publisher Ubisoft – and trigger more calls for reform. The employment agency also has legal action taken against Riot Games, the game maker of League of Legends, accusing him of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment.