Activision Blizzard CEO says his company’s response to discrimination lawsuit was ‘tone deaf’

Activision Blizzard CEO says his company’s response to discrimination lawsuit was ‘tone deaf’

Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick admitted that the gaming company’s response to a California discrimination lawsuit was “tone deaf” amid a rising employee backlash and accusations of a “frat boy” work tradition.

“Every voice matters — and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future,” Kotick stated in a note to employees on Tuesday. “I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”

Kotick’s response got here hours earlier than tons of of workers staged a walkout on Wednesday to stress the corporate to do extra to tackle a bunch of points together with unequal pay, gender discrimination and harassment.

Those points burst into the open final week, when California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, filed a lawsuit accusing Activision Blizzard — the corporate behind fashionable video video games akin to “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush” — of fostering a “frat boy” work tradition the place feminine workers have to “continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male coworkers.”

The grievance additionally alleges that “the company’s executives and human resources personnel knew of the harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the unlawful conduct, and instead retaliated against women who complained.”

The company’s director of company communications, Kelvin Liu, blasted the state’s submitting and investigation as “inaccurate” and “distorted” in an announcement to CNN Business following the lawsuit.

Several former workers have detailed their experiences at Activision Blizzard on social media for the reason that lawsuit was filed, and greater than 2,000 present and former workers signed a petition on Monday slamming the company’s preliminary pushback towards the lawsuit’s claims as “abhorrent and insulting.”

The petition additionally cited an inside assertion by Frances Townsend, a former George W. Bush administration counterterrorism official and Activision Blizzard’s government vice chairman of company affairs, through which she reportedly described the lawsuit’s allegations as “factually incorrect, old and out of context.”

Wednesday’s walkout goals to “improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups,” in accordance to a doc shared with CNN Business. Its calls for of management embrace an finish to obligatory arbitration clauses in all worker contracts, altering hiring and promotion insurance policies to enhance illustration throughout the firm, and publication of compensation information.

Participants of the walkout are additionally calling on firm management to rent a 3rd celebration to audit Activision Blizzard’s reporting construction, human sources division and government workers. “It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues,” the doc stated.

In his notice to workers, Kotick introduced he had employed the legislation agency WilmerHale to evaluation the company’s insurance policies “to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace.” He urged workers to attain out to the legislation agency’s group led by Stephanie Avakian, a former director of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.

“Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated,” Kotick stated. He additionally stated the corporate would do extra to help its staff, creating “safe spaces, moderated by third parties,” for workers to share their points.

“We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the company,” he stated. “Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.”

More than 100 Activision Blizzard workers had been anticipated to attend Wednesday’s walkout in individual outdoors the company’s places of work in Irvine, California, a Blizzard worker instructed CNN Business, whereas over 1,000 others had been anticipated to take part nearly.

In a letter shared with CNN Business forward of the walkout on Wednesday, members stated Activision Blizzard’s newest responses didn’t tackle a number of of their calls for, together with an finish to compelled arbitration, higher pay transparency and worker involvement in choosing a 3rd celebration to audit the company’s processes.

“While we are pleased to see that our collective voices … have convinced leadership to change the tone of their communications, this response fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns,” the letter stated. “Today’s walkout will demonstrate that this is not a one-time event that our leaders can ignore.”

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