A month after the state of California first announced it was suing gaming giant Activision Blizzard over allegations of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, the state government’s Department for Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has bolstered its case by alleging that the HR department shredded documents related to staff complaints and internal investigations.
Axios reports that California’s DFEH has also changed the scope of the suit to not only include full-time employees, but also contractors who worked at Activision Blizzard. Therefore the language of the whole suit has changed from employees to workers.
NEW: Amendments have been made to the Activision Blizzard lawsuit, which now includes references to contract workers and claims HR shredded documents related to investigations and complaints https://t.co/wX4oCDojKp pic.twitter.com/fBFa5Qo9LM
— Megan Farokhmanesh (@Megan_Nicolett) August 24, 2021
In addition, the DEFH is also criticizing Activision Blizzard for enforcing non-disclosure agreements, requiring employees to speak with Activision Blizzard before contacting and for bringing in a third party legal firm – WilmerHale – to investigate the incidents. The DFEH claims that this “directly interferes” with its legal case.
Lawyers from WilmerHale were brought in by Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick after employees criticized senior management’s defensive response to the legal case.
A week after the case was first announced, Kotick sent an email to all employees saying: “I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters – and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future.
“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.”
But since then, Activision Blizzard staff and a major shareholder SOC Investment Group’s Dieter Waizeneggar have criticized the hiring of WilmerHale.
“The lead investigator does not have in-depth experience investigating workplace harassment and abuse, and the scope of the investigation fails to address the full range of equity issues Kotick acknowledges.”
However, a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told UNLEASH:
“Throughout our engagement with the DFEH, we have 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.”
The types of measures the company claims to have introduced include high-level personnel changes, including the stepping down of Blizzard president J Allen Brack who was personally named in the lawsuit.
Also, the company has implemented diverse interview panels for recruitment, enhanced review processes that allow employees to evaluate their managers and brought in a zero-tolerance approach to harassment.
The spokesperson continued: “We strive to be a company that recognizes and celebrates the diverse talents and perspectives that lead to the creation of great, globally appealing entertainment.
“We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we do not have gender pay or promotion disparities. Our senior leadership is increasingly diverse, with a growing number of women in key leadership roles across the company.
“We share DFEH’s goal of a safe, inclusive workplace that rewards employees equitably and are committed to setting an example that others can follow.
“With regards to claims that we have destroyed information by shredding documents, those claims are not true. We took appropriate steps to preserve information relevant to the DFEH investigation.”
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