Activision Blizzard employees plan walkout amid sexual harassment lawsuit, report says

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Activision employees are reportedly planning to walk out tomorrow, July 28. 

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Activision Blizzard employees are reportedly threatening a walkout to protest the game maker’s response to a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed earlier this month. The planned action is part of an employee call for equality, new HR practices and a third-party audit of the company, which publishes the popular Call of Duty and World of Warcraft titles, says a Tuesday report by Bloomberg.

More than 2,000 past and present Activision Blizzard employees have signed a letter calling for “official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault,” Bloomberg reported. The letter from employees, published by the news outlet, focuses on the workers’ distrust of the company’s leaders. It also expresses support for colleagues who say they’re victims of harassment and assault.

“We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the [California Department of Fair Employment and Housing] lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for,” the letter reads. Townsend, a high-ranking executive at the game maker and a former advisor to the US Department of Homeland Security, angered employees with an email that reportedly dismissed the state’s allegations.” To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership,” the letter continued.

Bloomberg reported that Activision Blizzard employees are planning a 10 a.m. PT walkout on Wednesday, July 28, outside the Blizzard campus in Irvine, California. Employees participating in the walkout will be allowed to take paid time off, the company told the New York Times.

On July 20, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing accused Activision Blizzard of workplace discrimination and alleged that women aren’t compensated fairly and are subject to harassment. The agency called the company a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination” in which women are subject to regular sexual advances by men, who largely go unpunished.

Activision Blizzard has previously blasted the state’s lawsuit, saying it includes “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions.” The company didn’t respond to requests for comment, but late Tuesday, it released an email sent to employees that conceded its initial response to the issues brought up by employees was “tone deaf” and announced a handful of internal actions designed to address employee concerns and promote “long-lasting change.”

“It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way,” CEO Bobby Kotick said in a statement. “I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.

“There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind,” Kotick said, adding that the company has hired an outside law firm to review its policies and procedures to ensure a respectful and inclusive work environment.

Kotick said the company is increasing staffing to investigate claims of mistreatment and will evaluate the responses of managers and leaders across the company to determine whether they impeded company processes for reviewing claims. Those found to have violated those processes will be fired, Kotick said.

The company also plans to remove any in-game content deemed inappropriate, ensure that a diverse slate of candidates is considered for open positions and create listening sessions during which employees can discuss, with third-party moderators, ways to improve the company’s culture.

CNET’s Steven Musil contributed to this report.

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