California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has sued Activision Blizzard for creating a “frat boy” culture that puts female employees at a disadvantage.
As Bloomberg Law first reported, Activision Blizzard, whose workforce is about 80% male, “discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, and termination.”
In a statement, the DFEH said its two-year investigation revealed that the company “allegedly fostered a sexist culture and paid women less than men despite women doing substantially similar work, assigned women to lower level jobs and promoted them at slower rates than men, and fired or forced women to quit at higher frequencies than men.”
Moreover, “African American women and other women of color were particularly impacted by Activision Blizzard’s discriminatory practices,” the agency says.
Activision Blizzard says “in cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”
The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, says “female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, including having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors.” That includes being groped at so-called “cube crawls,” where intoxicated male employees made the rounds of women’s cubes to “engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”
Complaints were not adequately addressed, in part because “human resources personnel were known to be close to alleged harassers,” the suit says.
DFEH accuses the company of violating California’s Equal Pay Act as well as the Fair Employment and Housing Act. It claims that efforts to resolve the issue through dispute resolution earlier this month were unsuccessful.
In its own statement, Activision Blizzard says “the DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”
The company argues that it has been “extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court.”
DFEH’s suit mentions the death by suicide of a female Activision Blizzard employee on a business trip. The company says mention of that incident is “reprehensible” in part because the her “passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case.”
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