California Agency Sues ‘Call of Duty’ Developer for Harassment and Workplace Culture


California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is suing video game giant Activision Blizzard over allegations of sexual harassment.

Activision Blizzard is one of the largest and most valuable video game companies in the industry and is the developer of popular titles including Call of Duty, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and the Candy Crush Saga. Following a two-year investigation from the state agency, the DFEH filed the suit against the company at Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that Activision Blizzard fosters a “frat boy culture” that enabled sexual harassment and discrimination toward women.

That culture “is a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women,”  the suit says. “Female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, including having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male workers and supervisors… High ranking executives and creators engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.”

During “cube crawls,” Activision’s male employees would allegedly get drunk before sexually harassing women at their cubicles. They’d come to work hungover the next day and “play video games for long periods of time while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape,” according to the lawsuit.

One of Activision Blizzard’s woman employees committed suicide during a company trip, allegedly because of a sexual relationship she had with her supervisor. The suit further claims that before she died, some of the woman’s other co-workers were passing around a photo of her genitals at a holiday party.

Beyond sexual harassment, the DFEH’s suit further alleges women were regularly discriminated against through pay disparities, less promising job opportunities, and little upward mobility in the company. Activision Blizzard, which has 9,500 employees, is 20 percent women, the suit says. Women were given fewer opportunities, less stock options in the companies, and frequently passed over for promotions they seemed more qualified for than their male counterparts, based on their time at the company and performance reviews. Both Activision’s executives and Human Resources department did little to mitigate the harassment and discrimination, the suit says. In multiple instances, HR didn’t keep claims confidential, and supervisors would retaliate by transferring and laying women who issued a claim.

Activision Blizzard didn’t immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for a statement. In a statement to Bloomberg Law, who first reported the news, the company called agency’s claims “distorted and in many cases false.” Activision Blizzard said it “[values] 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. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”