Activision Blizzard Employees to Stage Walkout in Wake of Harassment Lawsuit

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It seems Activision Blizzard employees are looking to turn up the heat on management following last week’s explosive discrimination and harassment lawsuit. For those out of the loop, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment at the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher. Activision Blizzard’s official response to the suit accuses the DFEH of “distorted […] and false” descriptions and insists the picture painted is “is not the Blizzard workplace of today.”

Since the DFEH’s accusations were made public, numerous current and former Activision Blizzard employees have stepped forward to share stories of mistreatment, Blizzard’s old-guard have admitted they failed female staff, and an open letter proclaiming the company’s official response to the suit “abhorrent and insulting” has been issued. The situation has now escalated further – at least 2,600 current and former Activision Blizzard employees have signed the open letter, and according to a report from Polygon there are now plans for a worker walkout tomorrow. Of course, due to the lingering pandemic, many workers will participate at home without literally walking out. The #ActiBlizzWalkout hashtag will be used to organize things online.

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Walkout organizers are demanding Activision Blizzard improve employee conditions, especially for women, by revamping hiring policies, auditing executive staff, and removing mandatory arbitration clauses from contracts. Here’s a list of what organizers are demanding…

As current Activision Blizzard employees, we are holding a walkout to call on the executive leadership team to work with us on the following demands, in order 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.

  1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
  2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
  3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
  4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.

The odds of these demands being met are rather long, as employees at other major publishers like Riot Games have staged similar walkouts in recent years with few tangible results. Most of the video game industry, including Activision Blizzard, remains ununionized with employees having limited options to exert pressure on management. That said, the backlash currently facing Activision Blizzard is largely unprecedented and escalating by the day, so who knows? We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.

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