Activision Blizzard has fired thirty workers over harassment claims

Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard has fired thirty workers and disciplined 40 more since July over sexual harassment and misconduct claims

  • Activision Blizzard has received over 700 reports of employee concerns over sexual assault or harassment or other misconduct over the past seven months
  • California state regulators accused the company of condoning a culture of harassment, a toxic work environment, and inequality
  • CEO Bobby Kotick allegedly delayed release of report into personnel action 

The video game giant Activision Blizzard said Monday it has fired 37 employees and disciplined more than 40 others since July as it deals with allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct.

Over the past seven months the company has received about 700 reports of employee concerns over sexual assault or harassment or other misconduct, in some cases separate reports about the same incident, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A summary of the personnel action that the maker of ‘Call of Duty,’ ‘World of Warcraft’ and other blockbuster games has taken was scheduled to be released before the winter holidays, the Journal said.

But CEO Bobby Kotick delayed the release, arguing that it would make the company’s workplace problems look even bigger than they were known to be, the paper added.

Activision denied as ‘simply inaccurate’ the allegation that Kotick held up the report, in a statement prompted by the Journal story.

But CEO Bobby Kotick delayed the release, arguing that it would make the company’s workplace problems look even bigger than they were known to be, the paper added

The Fortune 500 company is responsible for World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Candy Crush

‘An interim update to our employees is still being worked on, and the company remains committed to continuing to provide periodic updates on its progress,’ the statement said.

It said the company has completed reviews of 90 percent of the complaints it has received since July – it did not say how many there were – and that ’37 employees have exited the company and another 44 received written reprimands, formal warnings or other discipline.’

In July, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the Fortune 500 company over what it called a ‘frat boy’ culture.

The agency says women make up just 20 percent of the workforce and get less money, fewer promotions, are fired more often and suffer from ‘constant sexual harassment.’  

‘Male employees proudly come into work hungover, play video games for long periods of time during work while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape,’ the lawsuit states.

The suit names Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who stepped down in August, and longtime World of Warcraft developer Alex Afrasiabi, who quietly left the company last year.

It alleges that Afrasiabi had a so-called ‘Cosby Suite’ at a hotel during corporate events.

‘During a company event (an annual convention called Blizz Con [sic]) Afrasiabi would hit on female employees, telling him [sic] he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting his arms around them,’ the complaint reads.

‘This was in plain view of other male employees, including supervisors, who had to intervene and pull him off female employees. Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the ‘Crosby Suite’ [sic] after alleged rapist Bill Crosby [sic].’

Former World of Warcraft developer Alex Afrasiabi was referenced in a state lawsuit against Activision Blizzard in July. He quietly left the company last year 

Afrasiabi poses with a portrait of convicted rapist Bill Cosby and other male workers at BlizzCon 2013. The state lawsuit said Afrasiabi kept a ‘Cosby Suite’ to lure women

The video game blog Kotaku posted screenshots from social media showing Afrasiabi and other male employees posing with a framed portrait of Cosby, a convicted serial rapist and former comedian.

Activision Blizzard has already agreed to pay $18 million to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to settle a sexual harassment investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

‘I truly wish not a single employee had had an experience at work that resulted in hurt, humiliation, or worse – and to those who were affected, I sincerely apologize,’ Kotick said in October last year. 

‘You have my commitment that we will do everything possible to honor our values and create the workplace every member of this team deserves.’

The company also agreed to an outside monitor to make sure it’s complying with he settlement agreement. 

In September the federal Securities and Exchange Commission launched a probe into the company over ‘disclosures regarding employment matters and related issues.’

And two months later the Journal reported that Kotick, accused of mishandling the harassment complaints, had signaled he would consider stepping down if he failed to quicky fix the company culture. He has led the company for more than three decades.

Nearly 20 percent of Activision Blizzard’s 9,500 employees have signed a petition calling for Kotick to resign.

The Journal said the company is under pressure from shareholders and business partners for more accountability over its handling of misconduct issues.

Late last year chief operating officer Daniel Alegre pledged a 50 percent increase in female and non-binary staff over the next five years so that they will account for more than a third of Activision’s workers.

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