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Activision Blizzard employees push back against leadership's lawsuit response

Over 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees have penned an open letter condemning the company's response to a lawsuit filed by California Department of Equal Housing and Employment.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

July 26, 2021

4 Min Read

Over 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees have penned an open letter to company executives, condemning their response to a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment alleging a toxic work culture at the company.

The letter, first obtained by Bloomberg News, spells out a number of objections to a statement made by Activision Blizzard's legal team after the lawsuit’s filing last week. The letter’s signees have called for the company to issue new statements in support of victims of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination, as well as for Fran Townsend to resign from the position of Executive Sponsor of the company’s Employee’s women’s network after her message to employees doubled down on the company statement.

“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,” the former employees wrote.

The letter follows a number of employees coming out over the last few days with allegations that corroborate the State of California’s lawsuit. Some stories reviewed by Gamasutra name Alex Afrasiabi, one of the senior employees named in the suit.

Others describe unnamed HR executives, lead developers, and other employees allegedly participating in alcohol-laden “cube crawls,” touching employees, or manipulating the company’s HR reporting systems to deny them profit-share or other career penalties.

Activision Blizzard’s position is not helped by two letters penned by former Blizzard leaders Mike Morhaine and Chris Metzen. Each of them apologized to employees who worked under them for at best, not noticing the problems, or at worst, enabling them.

Current Blizzard president J. Allen Brack also apologized to employees last week in an internal letter. Confusingly, said letter was followed by another message from management doubling down on claims that the State's lawsuit is fradulent.

Blizzard employees have suddenly found themselves caught between their values and their leadership. It’s one thing to find out your coworkers have been suffering at a company that you thought held higher standards, it’s another to watch your leadership viciously deny the allegations and spin-off their statement into a right-wing argument about California politics.

You can read the full text of the open letter 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.

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