Over 1000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees have signed a letter rebuking the company’s response to serious allegations of harassment and abuse. Last week, it came to light that the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH) were suing Activision Blizzard over an alleged culture of sexual harrassment and discrimination. At the time, the company issued a statement claiming the suit included information that was “distorted, and in many cases false”. But now staff past and present are calling for new official statements “that recognise the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault”.
After a two-year investigation into the company, DFEH’s lawsuit alleges that Activision Blizzard harboured a “frat boy” culure that involved “male employees drinking and subjecting female employees to sexual harassment with no repercussion.” The filing includes a number of disturbing allegations as well, and Activision Blizzard’s response suggests that these behaviours are in the past.
Now in a letter signed by Blizzard employees, which was shared with Bloomberg (watch out for the paywall), staff say the statements made both publicly and internally about the lawsuit are “abhorrent and insulting”, creating “a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims”.
In particular, it calls for Activision Blizzard executive Frances Townsend to step down as the Executive Sponsor of the company’s Employee’s Women’s Network, after a leaked email she sent to staff internally rejected the lawsuit’s claims, calling it “meritless and irresponsible”.
Here’s the employees’ letter in full:
“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. Categorising 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 organisations’ 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 recognise 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.”
Since the allegations first came to light last week, past and present Blizzard employees have also taken to social media to criticise the company’s response to the lawsuit, including Blizzard co-founder and former president Mike Morhaime.
Fans of the company’s games have been raising awareness of the suit as well, with World Of Warcraft players holding virtual protests in-game, voicing support for victims, calling for change, and raising money for Black Girls Code.