After the recent furore over alleged "frat boy" culture, unfair workplace practices, and sexual harassment, Activision Blizzard employees are staging a walkout which will happen on 28 July at 10am-2pm Pacific Time. For employees who are unable to attend in-person, a virtual walkout will take place on the same day from 9am-6pm, where they are encouraged to stop work and share the hashtag #ActiBlizzardWalkout on social media.
According to Bloomberg, Activision Blizzard is being sued for fostering a culture that subjects female employees to constant sexual harassment, unequal pay, and retaliation. Some of the allegations include allowing male employees to play video games during the workday while responsibilities are delegated to female employees, not curbing sexual banter and rape jokes, and holding back female employees from promotions because of the possibility of pregnancy.
The suit also highlights an incident where an employee was subjected to intense sexual harassment, including having nude photos passed around at a company holiday party, which culminated in her death by suicide while on a company trip with her male supervisor.
Here are the employee demands of the Activision Blizzard Walkout:
An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK's reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.
Gender discrimination and inequality are not new in the game development industry, with Riot Games paying out US$10 million to settle a gender discrimination suit filed against it in 2018.
Let's hope that as more cases are brought to light, better workplace practices that benefit the wellbeing of every employee are put into place moving forward.