Last week, the state of California formally filed multiple charges against Activision Blizzard for violating multiple codes of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and California Equal Pay Act. Once the news broke, a number of official statements from Activision Blizzard were released online. These include an initial statement from a company spokesperson that deflected some of the charges (while ignoring the facts concerning former Senior Creative Director of World of Warcraft, Alex Afrasiabi), an e-mail sent to Blizzard employees by Blizzard President J. Allen Brack (named in the court filing), and another e-mail penned by Activision Blizzard executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs Frances Townsend.
This week, Activision Blizzard employees are responding to these public statements by scheduling a company-wide walkout for Wednesday, July 28th, and issuing an open letter to executives addressing their support for the lawsuit against the company and their demands.
First, reported by Bloomberg on Monday, July 26th, an open letter drafted by Activision Blizzard employees was being circulated within the company for current (as well as former) employees to sign. In it, the letter called for:
- New “official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.”
- For Frances Townsend “to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement.”
- That the executive leadership team works with employees to ensure “a safe place to speak out and come forward.”
You can read the full letter below:
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. Categorizing 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 organizations’ 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 recognize 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.
At the time of publishing, Bloomberg noted that nearly 1,000 current and former employees had signed the letter. Now, on Tuesday, July 27th, more than 2,000 employees have signed the letter in a new report. The next step that Activision Blizzard staff is taking is organizing a company-wide walkout for Wednesday.
The walkout is planned to take place outside of Blizzard Entertainment’s campus (located in Irvine, California). With this next course of action, employees have updated their demands to include the following (as reported by Bloomberg):
- That Activision ditch mandatory arbitration clauses “in all employee contracts, current and future.”
- New practices for recruiting, interviewing, hiring and promotion that facilitate better representation “agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization.”
- The publication of data on relative compensation, promotion rates and salary ranges for employees “of all genders and ethnicities at the company.”
- That a diversity task force be allowed to hire a third party to audit the company’s leadership, hierarchy and HR department. “It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.”
According to the same Bloomberg report, this isn’t the first time that employees at the company have organized within the last year. Nearly a year ago, employees made a public spreadsheet documenting their salaries which lead to asking for “more equitable compensation.”
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