More than 800 employees at video game maker Activision Blizzard, who was sued by the state of California last week which alleged it was a "breeding ground for harassment," have signed an open letter to management "to demand change and hold our leaders and companies accountable to the values we signed onto when joining."
The open letter and number of signatures was shared with Waypoint by a current employee of Activision Blizzard involved in organizing and distributing the letter. Another current employee confirmed the existence of the open letter. Waypoint granted the employees anonymity to avoid potential reprisals from Activision Blizzard.
Bloomberg was first to report the news.
"We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for," the letter says. "To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership."
The group's full statement reads as follows:
"Following the announcement from Activision Blizzard, and in light of the internal memo circulated by Frances Townsend, a group of over 200 employees from across all of Activision-Blizzard-King and its subsidiaries came together to take action. Over the weekend we drafted an open letter to our leadership that is now gathering signatures from across our organizations, and have been working on next steps. We appreciate the support of our fellow co-workers, past ABK employees, and our communities during this time. Rest assured we intend to demand change, and hold our leaders and companies accountable to the values we signed onto when joining."
Last week, one of the world's largest video game publishers was formally sued by the state of California after a two-year investigation uncovered an alleged "frat boy" culture where, among other systemic problems, the company reportedly discriminated against women regarding promotions, compensations, assignments, and firings.
The lawsuit alleges that women employees were subject to so-called "cube crawls" during which men at the company got drunk and "crawl[ed]" through office cubicles and harassed women, the complaint alleges. Men played videos games for extended periods of time during work hours, delegating tasks to women, joked about rape, commented on women's bodies, and groped them, the complaint continues. High-ranking men at the company engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.
The agency seeks an injunction that would force compliance with workplace protections, in addition to pay adjustments, unpaid wages, back pay, lost wages and benefits for women at the company, stating that “compliance with California’s broad workplace protections is long overdue.”
The investigation was conducted by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which also brought a discrimination lawsuit against League of Legends developer Riot Games in 2018.
The full letter is published below:
To the Leaders of Activision Blizzard,
We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for. To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.
We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry. Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.
Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action -- and the troubling official responses that followed -- we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit,” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse, is simply unacceptable.
We call for official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault. We call on Frances Townsend to stand by her word to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement. We call on the executive leadership team to work with us on new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees -- as well as our community -- have a safe place to speak out and come forward.
We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind. We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai contributed reporting.