Workers at videogame giant Activision Blizzard Inc. walked out Wednesday in protest of the company’s workplace environment, after a lawsuit last week claimed female employees were subject to “constant sexual harassment.”
In a statement, first reported by Axios, employees called a contrite letter from Chief Executive Bobby Kotick on Tuesday insufficient, saying it did not address their main complaints, and vowed that the walkout would not be “a one-time event that our leaders can ignore.”
“We will not return to silence, we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point,” the statement read.
Kotick admitted in his letter Tuesday that Activision Blizzard’s
defiant initial response to last week’s lawsuit, filed by California state regulators, was “tone deaf,” and promised an outside investigation into the company’s office culture. He also promised some workplace changes, but did not specifically address employee calls for an end to forced arbitration, new hiring and promotion processes, transparency of salary data, and an audit by a diversity, equity and inclusion task force.
On social media, a number of Activision Blizzard workers and their allies expressed doubt that the same senior management team that allegedly allowed a toxic workplace culture to thrive could be trusted to rectify the problem, and called for changes at the top.
Employees called for a virtual boycott on Wednesday, urging videogame users to avoid logging on to popular Activision Blizzard games such as “World of Warcraft,” “Overlord” and “Call of Duty.”
The lawsuit, filed, by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleges that Activision Blizzard pays and promotes female employees less than their male peers, and that female employees are subject to “constant sexual harassment,” including unwanted sexual comments, advances and groping. A number of disturbing incidents were described in the filing, which described Activision Blizzard as fostering a “frat boy” work environment.
The lawsuit noted that while the gender of videogame players is about even, women make up just 20% of Activision’s workforce of 9,500 people, and its top leadership is exclusively made up of white men.
“We all deserve a safe work environment. It’s time for our leadership to follow our values and Lead Responsibly,” Activision Blizzard analyst Jennifer Mallett tweeted Wednesday.
Activision Blizzard shares rose slightly Wednesday, after sinking nearly 7% on Tuesday. Shares are down about 8% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s
17% gain this year. The company is scheduled to report second-quarter earnings next week.