Activision Blizzard employees to hold walkout demanding better working conditions for marginalised groups in wake of harassment lawsuit

Activision Blizzard employees to hold walkout demanding better working conditions for marginalised groups in wake of harassment lawsuit
Ben Borthwick Updated on by

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In the latest developments in the ongoing story of the State of California suing Activision Blizzard over alleged widespread harassment of women, employees are now set to down tools and hold a formal walkout later today.

As per Kotaku, the event will be known as the Activision Blizzard Walkout for Equality and will be held virtually (as many employees are still currently working from home) between 9am and 6pm PT today. A live event will be held simultaneously and safely from Blizzard’s campus in California between 10am and 2pm PT. Those unable to attend in person are asked to stop working between those times and use the hashtag #ActiBlizzWalkout on social media.

Those organising the walkout have published a statement of intent alongside the announcement of the walkout. In it, those signed say that employees believe their values are not being reflected by management, and are calling on leadership to overhaul many of the company’s regulations in order to provide a better working environment for marginalised groups. The full text of the statement reads as follows:

Given last week’s statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, and the many stories shared by current and former employees of Activision Blizzard since, we believe that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.

As current Activision Blizzard employees, we are holding a walkout to call on the executive leadership team to work with us on the following demands, in order to improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups.

  1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
  2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
  3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
  4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.

Meanwhile, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick has also issued a public statement on the lawsuit in an open letter to employees. In it, he called the events “a difficult and upsetting week” and said “Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.” Kotick added “It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”

The letter goes on to claim that the company will be taking “swift action” to attempt to root out discrimination, harassment and unequal treatment of any kind, and has asked external law firm WilmerHale to conduct a full review of the company’s policies and procedures. He also outlines a five point plan including bringing on additional senior staff, introducing listening sessions and safe spaces moderated by third parties for employees.

An evaluation of managers and leaders across the company is being undertaken immediately, and Kotick also claims hiring managers will be ensuring they have diverse candidates for all open positions, and the company will be adding compliance resources to ensure those hiring adhere to the new directives.

Finally, Kotick also states there will be changes in the company’s games, saying  “We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content.” Some of that appears to be already underway with the World of Warcraft team, who tweeted their own public statement saying they would take “immediate action in Azeroth to remove references that are not appropriate for our world.”