Here are the latest allegations that Activision Blizzard employees have leveled against the company:
More troubling allegations of Activision Blizzard’s reported culture of sexual harassment and gender discrimination have been reported in recent days, following a massive lawsuit filed against the company last week by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Details in these stories can be challenging to read, so we’ll start them off with a content warning for sexual harassment descriptions.
On Thursday, The New York Times posted a story of deeply disturbing stories about Activision Blizzard’s culture. Here’s one from Shay Stein, a former customer service representative:
Ms. Stein, 28, who worked at Activision from 2014 to 2017 in a customer service role helping gamers with issues and outages, said she was consistently paid less than her ex-boyfriend, who joined the company at the same time as she. and performed the same work.
Ms. Stein said she once turned down drugs her manager offered at a holiday party in 2014 or 2015, which soured their relationship and hampered her career. In 2016, a manager messaged her on Facebook, suggesting she likes “some freaky stuff” and asking what kind of pornography she watched. She said she had also heard male colleagues joke that some women had their jobs only because they were doing sexual favors to male superiors.
And former Vice President Lisa Welch shared an account of how an exec asked her to have sex with him “because she “deserved some pleasure” after her boyfriend passed away weeks earlier.”
Shame a disturbing report published on Friday about the story of Emily Mitchell, a security researcher, who approached Blizzard’s booth at the 2015 Black Hat cybersecurity conference and was harassed by Blizzard representatives.
When she got to the table, she said she asked about the penetration test position. Penetration testing, or pen testing, is the industry term for a security audit. Mitchell said she was wearing a t-shirt from cybersecurity firm SecureState with “Penetration Expert” on the front. One of the Blizzard employees first asked if she was lost, another asked if she was at the conference with her boyfriend, and another asked if she even knew what pen testing was.
“One of them asked me when I was last penetrated personally, if I enjoyed being penetrated and how often I was penetrated,” Mitchell told Waypoint. “I was furious and felt humiliated, so I took the free swag and left.”
Mitchell would later work as a COO at a company called Sagitta HPC (now Terahash), and when Blizzard wanted to hire the company in 2017, she reported the incident to founder and CEO Jeremi Gosney, according to Shame. Gosney has posted his redacted email reply on Twitter in March 2017, demanding that Blizzard meet several conditions if they collaborated, including a “50 percent misogyny tax,” with the proceeds donated to three charities that support women in technology, and that Blizzard send a letter of apology to Mitchell.
gosney confirmed friday that the edited name in the email was Blizzard.
IGN a great feature posted Friday with the huge challenges women have faced at Activision Blizzard. A poignant example: Men walked into nursing rooms because they had no locks at one point:
A source who has since departed from Blizzard said the room designated for breastfeeding had no locks. “Men would walk into the nursing room. There was no way to lock the door. They would just stare and I would have to yell at them to leave.” IGN understands that the nursing areas have since been revamped and locks have been added to the doors.
IGNs The article also added more detail to the DFEH’s lawsuit alleging that working at the company was “similar to working in a dorm:”
Such stories abound at Activision Blizzard, compounded by a drinking culture that was “insane” until recently, a source said. One woman told me she “stubbornly avoided” drinking events on campus because of their reputation. Another said it was “much more sexual” at Blizzard’s headquarters in Irvine around 2015, with women subjected to inappropriate touches in the chest area and elsewhere, “sometimes at the holiday party, sometimes not.”
Activision Blizzard has taken steps to address its problematic drinking culture by introducing a maximum of two drinks at corporate events, according to IGN, a policy introduced in 2018, a company spokesperson told the publication.
On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard employees walked out in protest at the company’s handling of the lawsuit. Employees signed a letter Monday disapproving of the company’s initial response. A day later, CEO Bobby Kotick tried to allay the allegations and concerns ahead of the planned strike, calling Activision Blizzard’s response “tone deaf” in a public letter. Just before the strike, workers, in turn, responded to Kotick’s letter, saying it “did not address critical elements at the heart of workers’ concerns”.
In a small positive step, the overwatch League, owned by Activision Blizzard, committed to donating to “worthy causes” on Friday. But the competition took that step after that overwatch League teams the Washington Justice and the Houston Outlaws together announced Thursday they would donate to RAINN and Big Sister Little Sister.