In a damning example of what the state of California described as a "frat boy" workplace culture, a senior Blizzard manager joked in a meeting about having sex with female assistants, Waypoint has learned.
In late 2018, Derek Ingalls, at the time Blizzard's chief information officer, called a meeting for all IT employees following the departure of Ben Kilgore, who was until then Blizzard's chief technology officer.
According to a former Blizzard IT employee who was at the meeting, Ingalls jokingly said employees shouldn't sleep with their executive assistants, that if they did, they shouldn't stop, and that if they did stop, they better have "deep pockets."
"There were a fairly significant group of us that were pretty disturbed by it," the former employee told Waypoint.
Three other former employees, who were also attending the meeting, told Waypoint they remember a joke along those lines. One of them said the joke felt "awkward and not well received." Another said he felt "incredibly uncomfortable."
Two other former employees who were not at the meeting said they remember hearing about it through other colleagues.
Waypoint agreed to keep sources in this story anonymous as they are bound by non-disclosure agreements and fear retaliation.
One of the former employees who was at the meeting said no one said anything or spoke out against it publicly. The employee added that speaking up against Ingalls "was putting a target on your back to get PIP'd then fired."
PIP stands for "performance improvement plan," during which employees are warned they have to meet specific goals or face disciplinary measures, a step many companies take before firing an employee. "[They] took away bonuses for the year and set goals you must meet to earn them back. They gave those out like candy to anyone they didn't like or who challenged them."
One of the former employees said he and a colleague brought up their concerns about Ingalls' comment to their manager, who dismissed it as a joke. They then brought it up to an HR representative, but it's unclear if anything ever came out of it, the former employee said. As Bloomberg first reported on Tuesday, Blizzard's head of HR Jesse Meschuk left the company.
According to four former employees, Kilgore was fired following multiple allegations of improper behavior, particularly sexual harassment against female employees.
One source said that Kilgore was known to host so-called "networking events" where he would invite female employees and encourage them to attend, while also inviting some male employees. These events were "a way for C-level Blizzard executives to groom young female employees," the former employee said. (Another former employee told Motherboard that she was aware of these events.)
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Kilgore did not respond to a request for comment via email. Ingalls, who works at Amazon did not respond to messages sent to via LinkedIn, as well as requests for comment sent to their corporate email addresses.
A Blizzard spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations against Kilgore and Ingalls. Instead, the spokesperson said that the three "are not currently employed by Blizzard.”
The state of California accused Activision Blizzard of fostering a "frat boy" culture and for being "breeding ground for harassment" and discrimination in a lawsuit filed at the end of July. The lawsuit includes a long list of alleged sexual harassment including jokes about rape, groping, comments on female colleagues' bodies, and "cube crawls" where drunk male employees would go around the office and harass female colleagues. The lawsuit also specifically names long-time World of Warcraft developer Alex Afrasiabi, alleging he used to call his hotel room at a company conference the Bill "Cosby suite," in a clear reference to Cosby's history of sexual assaults, according to former employees who spoke to Kotaku.
Kilgore is not named in the lawsuit. But one passage refers to him, according to four former Blizzard employees.
"Defendant's former Chief Technology Officer was observed by employees groping inebriated female employees at company events and was known for making hiring decisions based on female applicants' looks," the complaint reads. Kilgore's Linkedin page lists him as Blizzard's Chief Technology Officer from 2014 to 2018.
The sexual harassment incidents spilled over outside of the company as well. Last week, Motherboard reported that Blizzard employees working at a conference booth set up to recruit new hires asked a woman if she "liked being penetrated."
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