Activision Blizzard tells shareholders to vote against harassment report - Get2Gaming

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Warning: This article contains references to sexual harassment, rape and suicide. 

Activision Blizzard have told their shareholders to vote against a proposal for a harassment and discrimination report. In a document outlining the annual shareholder’s meeting, Activision Blizzard announced that the “board unanimously recommends” voting against the report. The report was proposed in February this year and the annual meeting is scheduled to take place June 21. The document can be read here.

Activision’s argument against the public report is that it would “divert” attention and resources away from actively dealing with helping employees. They believe that “yet another report” would not be the best way forward and take too long. They instead think that responding to employee concerns directly is the quickest way to make change.

In addition, Activision argue that the public report would use a set of metrics that are “simply not the best measure” of how the company is dealing with these concerns of harassment and discrimination. The company argues that it would not present a “complete or meaningful picture” of the situation. The board members instead believe that their ongoing investigation should be kept internal.

However, Activision also argue that the report is based on the lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DEFH). Activision are currently fighting the lawsuit that accuses the company of a workplace rife with sexual harassment and discrimination. In the document recommending voting against the report, Activision called the liability claims “inaccurate” and “substantially overstated”. The board argue that it is based on “false assumptions”, guesses and “multiple mathematical errors”.

It would seem, then, that Activision’s board worries that by agreeing to the report, proposed by New York, they would be giving credence to California’s lawsuit.

The California Lawsuit
Activision California Lawsuit
The complaint document in the California Lawsuit. It can be read here.

The lawsuit by California’s DEFH was filed in July 2021. The lawsuit alleges that the company has fostered a “frat boy” culture that is a “breeding ground” for sexual harassment and discrimination against women. It alleges that the male employees would take part in “cube crawls”, in which they would get drunk and walk through the cubicles, harassing their female colleagues. The lawsuit claims the male employees would grope the female employees, make unwanted advances or comments and joke with each other about rape.

The lawsuit also alleges that a women committed suicide while on a business trip with her male supervisor. The complaint alleges that the employee had been a victim of sexual harassment. The complaint document can be read here.

In addition to the sexual harassment, the lawsuit alleges that women are treated unfairly at Activision. The complaint states that females make up around 20% of the workforce at Activision Blizzard. According to the DEFH, the female employees are paid less than their male counterparts and are not promoted to positions of authority, or do not face the same opportunities. According to the lawsuit, one woman was told they could not promote her as she “might get pregnant and like being a mum too much.”

Besides the DEFH, another lawsuit was filed against Activision in September 2021. This lawsuit was filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It was settled out of court the same day it was filed, with Activision paying a settlement of $18 million.

Pressure on Activision

With the ongoing lawsuit, there is growing pressure on Activision. After the lawsuit was filed, more than 2,000 current and former employees came out in support of the lawsuit. There have also been reports of union busting at Activision, with the company hiring law firm WilmerHale. The law firm is famous for stopping Amazon’s workers from unionising.

In response to the criticisms regarding the lack of female employees, Activision has hired Kristen Hines as its new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. Activision announced in October 2021 that they will increase women and non-binary representation by 50% within the next five years.

In addition, they have added more women to their board. However, Activision also stated that adding another woman to their board of directors was required by California law and that they weren’t able to do so in 2021. They stated that the acquisition by Microsoft complicated matters.

Activision were acquired by Microsoft in January for almost $70 billion, although the buyout isn’t expected to be completed till 2023.

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