Hundreds of current and former employees from across Activision Blizzard have signed a letter to the company’s management calling its response to a recent lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at some of its offices “abhorrent and insulting.”
“Following the announcement from Activision Blizzard, and in light of the internal memo circulated by Frances Townsend, a group of over 800 employees from across all of Activision-Blizzard-King and its subsidiaries came together to take action,” a representative of the group told Kotaku. “Over the weekend we drafted an open letter to our leadership that is now gathering signatures from across our organizations, and have been working on next steps.”
That letter was sent to managers today, two sources confirmed, a full copy of which was shared with Kotaku and has been excerpted below:
To the Leaders of Activision Blizzard,
We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH 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. To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.
We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry. Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.
Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action — and the troubling official responses that followed — we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit,” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse, is simply unacceptable.
We call for official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault. We call on Frances Townsend to stand by her word to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement. We call on the executive leadership team to work with us on new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees — as well as our community — have a safe place to speak out and come forward.
We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind. We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.
On July 20, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a complaint against Activision Blizzard accusing the Call of Duty and Overwatch publisher of a “frat boy” workplace culture based on a two-year investigation. In response. “DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” Activision Blizzard said in a statement in response, calling it the work of “unaccountable State bureaucrats.”
In the days that followed, leaders within the company offered their own responses. Some called the allegations in the complaint “troubling,” others, like Activision Blizzard chief compliance officer Frances Townsend, called the lawsuit “meritless” in a strongly-worded rebuke sent to Activision staff. A number of current Blizzard developers than began speaking out online to distance themselves from the company’s official response and criticize how leaders were handling the situation.
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Today, UppercutCrit reported that Activision chief operating officer Joshua Taub held a contentious all-hands meeting with 500 staff discussing the company’s handling of the ongoing fallout. In it, he apparently encouraged employees to let the handling of these issues remain internal, including when it came to a question about staff unionizing. “The best way for protection is reaching out to your supervisors, hotline and avenues,” Taub responded, according to UppercutCrit.
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We appreciate the support of our fellow co-workers, past ABK employees, and our communities during this time,” a representative for the employee group that signed today’s letter, told Kotaku. “ Rest assured we intend to demand change, and hold our leaders and companies accountable to the values we signed onto when joining.”
Update: 10.30 AM, 7/27/2021: The petition has now doubled its signatures of current and former employees, topping 2,000, reports CNN. With a total of 9,500 staff at the company, that’s potentially 20% of Activision Blizzard’s workforce standing up to decry the publisher’s public response to the lawsuit.