Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, most video game companies have seen significant growth in their profits and user base as people have more time to enjoy games on their backlog. But Activision Blizzard has been facing a series of damaging allegations as it battles a lawsuit alleging rampant harassment and discrimination at the company internally.
Activision Blizzard faces a lawsuit over gender discrimination and sexual harassment claims.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard on July 20 for 10 different violations of the state's employment laws. The report claims the company “discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, termination, constructive discharge, and retaliation.”
These charges were based on a two-year investigation that took place at the company, though the initial reason for the investigation is still unclear.
Many employees also claimed there was great pay disparity, leading to an anonymous spreadsheet of salaries being shared among employees.
Women at the company reportedly told the DFEH “that male counterparts were paid significantly more than them despite doing the same or less work and having less responsibilities," according to Polygon.
The lawsuit alleges the company encouraged a “frat house” or “frat boy” culture among employees and that many of the women who worked for the company (despite there being a significantly fewer number of them employed) were subject to sexual harassment.
“Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior,” the suit reads.
J. Allen Brack was the previous president of Activision Blizzard, though he stepped down from his position on Aug. 3 following these allegations. He reportedly was informed about many of these complaints from employees and did not address them internally.
Activision Blizzard responded to the claims in a statement, claiming that the suit against it was founded on “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past."
The lawsuit was then expanded to include contract workers after the DFEH claimed Activision Blizzard "suppressed" evidence of sexual harassment, "shredding" documents related to the complaints, according to Axios.
Activision Blizzard said in a statement to Polygon it "complied with every proper request in support of its review even as we had been implementing reforms to ensure our workplaces are welcoming and safe for every employee.”
What does this mean for all Activision Blizzard games?
If the COVID-19 pandemic wasn't enough to postpone progress on some of our favorite titles, this lawsuit has also put a halt on updates for many of the company's most-played video games. A senior designer reportedly said that “almost no work is being done on World of Warcraft right now while this obscenity plays out.”
The mobile adaptation of Diablo Immortal has also been delayed until 2022 from its original release date of late 2021.
Add to this, Activision Blizzard's quarterly earnings are down, and it seems as though titles from the company will continue to face significant delays as the lawsuit plays out.