Since July when the state of California announced it was suing Activision Blizzard over sexual harassment claims and an alleged ‘frat boy culture’, the gaming giant’s workplace has dominated headlines.
Activision Blizzard is back in the news now because, following a recent $18 million legal settlement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it has updated previous commitments to improve its workplace culture and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.
After outrage from employees about the gaming giant’s reaction to the California suit, CEO Bobby Kotick sent an email to employees in which he pledged the company would take “swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment.”
He added: “There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.”
At this point, Kotick brought in law firm WilmerHale to review the company’s policies and procedures.
But now, Kotick has shared further commitments from Activision Blizzard to allow it to become “the model workplace in our industry” in a letter to employees.
This comes as Activision Blizzard is still grappling with the California suit, as well as complaints from the National Labor Relations Board and an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
5 new commitments to “workplace excellence”
Activision Blizzard’s CEO noted there are “five new changes we are implementing, but recognize being a model for workplace excellence will be a dynamic process requiring additional changes and an unrelenting commitment to improvement”.
The first commitment is “a new zero-tolerance harassment policy company-wide”. This requires “consistent monitoring across the entire company to make sure reports are being handled correctly and discipline is appropriate and swift”.
Ultimately, Kotick’s goal is to “have the strictest harassment and non-retaliation policies of any employer, and we will continue to examine and tighten our standards to achieve this goal everywhere we do business”.
Therefore, any employee found to have retaliated against a complainant will be immediately fired; written warnings are no longer sufficient to deal with harassment and discrimination at Activision Blizzard.
The second pledge is increasing the percentage of women and non-binary individuals in the workforce by 50% (they currently make up only 23% of its global workforce); this also includes investing $250 million over ten years to accelerate diversity hiring.
Thirdly, Activision Blizzard is “waiving required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims”. This comes on the back of employee feedback. The fourth pledge is to focus on pay equity, including by reporting its figures annually.
Finally, Kotick committed himself and Activision Blizzard’s leadership to quarterly updates about progress on these commitments.
He also stated in his letter to employees that he has tied his own salary to the company’s achievement of these commitments.
“I have asked our board of directors to reduce my total compensation until the Board has determined that we have achieved the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described above.
“Specifically, I have asked the Board to reduce my pay to the lowest amount California law will allow for people earning a salary, which this year is $62,500.
“To be clear, this is a reduction in my overall compensation, not just my salary. I am asking not to receive any bonuses or be granted any equity during this time.”
While previous damage done by Activision Blizzard’s workplace cannot be undone, the question remains whether these commitments go far enough to help the gaming giant attract and retain talent in the future, particularly given that ‘Great Resignation’ is showing no signs of going anywhere.
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