- California sued gaming giant Activision Blizzard on Tuesday, alleging a “frat boy” culture.
- A state agency said female staff were constantly sexually harassed and paid less for their work.
- Activision Blizzard said the suit included “distorted” and “false” claims.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
California’s fair employment agency filed a lawsuit against gaming giant Activision Blizzard on Tuesday, accusing the Call of Duty publisher of a “pervasive frat boy” in which female employees were routinely harassed.
In one alleged incident, a “newly promoted male supervisor delegated his responsibilities to his now female subordinates in favor of playing Call of Duty,” the filing said.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued Activision Blizzard and two subsidiaries – Activision Publishing and World of Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment – after a two-year investigation into working conditions for female staff, Bloomberg Law first reported.
DFEH said in Tuesday’s filing to the Los Angeles Supreme Court that women at the company were discriminated against, subjected to “constant sexual harassment,” groped, paid less for “substantially similar work,” and retaliated against by company HR when they complained.
“Unsurprisingly, [the] Defendants’ ‘frat boy’ culture is a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women,” the lawsuit said.
A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard said in a statement that “the picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.”
“The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived,” the statement said.
“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind,” the spokesperson said.
“We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”
The lawsuit detailed claims that some male workers engaged in “cube crawls” where they would “drink copious amounts of alcohol” and move between cubicles in the office, often behaving inappropriately towards their female coworkers.
Some male workers made sexual advances to female employees on the World of Warcraft team, and also made derogatory comments about rape, the lawsuit claimed.
The agency said in the filing that one female Activision Blizzard worker died by suicide during a business trip. A male coworker she had previously had a sexual relationship with was also on the trip, the suit said. Police found that the male supervisor had brought a butt plug and lubricant on the trip, DFEH said.
Another employee said the woman had suffered sexual harassment at work before her death, DFEH said.
It is not clear when the trip happened. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to Insider that the employee’s suicide had “no bearing whatsoever on this case.”
The lawsuit alleged that Activision Blizzard’s female workers – which it said makes up around 20% of its workforce – were also promoted more slowly, while women in executive roles earned “less salary, incentive pay, and total compensation than their male peers,” citing Activision Blizzard’s own records with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
DFEH said that it filed the suit on grounds of unequal pay, sex discrimination, unlawful sexual harassment, retaliation, and for failure to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The agency said it was suing in the public interest and for Activision Blizzard’s female employees.
The agency is seeking compensation and punitive damages, and unpaid and lost wages for female workers, among other demands, although did not specify how much.