There is “no widespread harassment, or systemic harassment at Activision”, claim the findings of a new investigation, conducted and published by Activision.
Over the last 12 months, two major lawsuits have been filed against Activision, claiming that some of its employees are victims of gender and sexual harassment, and that some of the company’s directors – despite being aware of various instances of misconduct – have failed to take appropriate action. In response, Activision has launched its own, internal investigation into company practices, and has published findings which claim that the Call of Duty publisher does not have “a systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation”.
“While there are some substantiated instances of gender harassment,” Activision says, “those unfortunate circumstances do not support the conclusion that Activision senior leadership or the Board were aware of and tolerated gender harassment or that there was ever a systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation.
“Contrary to many of the allegations, the Board and its external advisors have determined that there is no evidence to suggest that Activision Blizzard senior executives ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment that occurred and were reported.”
The initial lawsuit against Activision, filed in July 2021 by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), accused the company of promoting a “‘frat boy’ culture” where some employees were subject to “constant sexual harassment, unequal pay, and retaliation”. J. Allen Brack, then-president of Blizzard Entertainment, was specifically named in the original suit as having prior knowledge of the harassment claims, and failing to act.
Following these claims, Brack stepped down as Blizzard’s president, and various high-profile Activision-Blizzard employees were fired, including Diablo 4 lead designer Jess McCree and the senior creative director for World of Warcraft Alex Afrasiabi.
In September 2021, a second lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This suit was resolved via an $18m dollar settlement in March. Activision also agreed to submit to unannounced audits of its employees by the EEOC, and to allow the Commission to review any pending complaints of sexual assault.
Activision recruited Gilbert Casellas, a former chair of the EEOC, to participate in its own internal investigation. His findings have also been published as part of the company’s report:
“Based on his review, Mr Casellas concluded that there was no widespread harassment, pattern or practice of harassment, or systemic harassment at Activision Blizzard or at any of its business units during that timeframe. Mr Casellas further concluded that, based on the volume of reports, the amount of misconduct reflected is comparatively low for a company the size of Activision Blizzard.”
The original DFEH lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard is still ongoing, as is an investigation launched by the Securities Exchange Commission in September 2021. You can catch up with all the developments in this ongoing story with this explainer article.