Updated: Oct 22, 2021
With the recent visibility of social justice efforts and conversations about diversity and inclusion in corporate settings, it is hard to believe that blatant discrimination still occurs within companies. And yet, it is happening.
In July, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, a video game development company known for titles such as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Candy Crush. DFEH states that Blizzard had violated state employment laws and created a culture of gender-based discrimination and “constant sexual harassment.” The lawsuit alleges that female employees were paid less, promoted less, and fired more quickly than their male counterparts, and were often subject to groping and other forms of harassment from male employees.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, numerous women stepped forward to corroborate the “frat boy” culture detailed in the lawsuit and provide additional information about their experiences working at Blizzard. They confirmed that male employees often went on “cube crawls” to harass female employees in different cubicles, in addition to drinking, playing video games, and making jokes about rape during work. Managers were aware of this behavior but did nothing to stop it—in many cases, they even encouraged or participated in it.
What Has Happened Since Then?
Since the lawsuit has become publicized, multiple Blizzard supervisors have issued both statements to employees and the public denying the allegations and calling them “factually incorrect, old and out of context.” However, employees demonstrated that they were unsatisfied with the response in an employee walkout on July 28th and a petition with over 2000 signatures demanded greater compassion and accountability from management. Additionally, on August 3rd, Blizzard Entertainment’s president J. Allen Brack stepped down from his position.
Why Does the Blizzard Lawsuit Matter?
While misogyny and gender-based discrimination, among other types of discrimination, still exist in corporate settings today, Activision Blizzard is a prominent example of a company’s failure to have internal accountability and enforce fairness policies.
The irony in the situation is that Activision Blizzard claims to be an “Equal Opportunity Employer” and have a “culture of inclusion and belonging” on its website. Yet, the details revealed in the lawsuit and in supervisors’ statements indicate that the company not only turned a blind eye to the discriminatory and inappropriate behavior within the company, but also openly tried to silence the female employees who spoke out about their experiences.
It is long overdue for inclusion and anti-discrimination to be at the forefront of companies’ priorities. With the growing popularity of social justice in recent years, many companies such as Blizzard have released statements on diversity and inclusion on their websites; however it is not enough. When there is no company accountability and transparency, corporations such as Blizzard can hide behind their statements of equality without truly enforcing anti-discrimination policies. Incidents of sexual harassment are swept under the rug, and women experience pay discrimination and fewer opportunities for promotion.
While the Blizzard case has gained a lot of visibility in the past months, it must be acknowledged that Blizzard is not the only company where there is frequent discrimination and harassment towards women and minority employees—there are other companies with much less visibility where the same thing is occurring.
Here at LevelUp, we encourage everyone to keep an eye out for women who have spoken out about their experiences at work and to hold companies accountable. We believe that accountability and compassion are more important than ever during this time, and we are striving to build a better future where women will never have to experience harassment and discrimination of any kind, in and out of the workplace.