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Activision Blizzard QA employees speak out about poor working conditions

Update: A number of Activision Blizzard employees have spoken out publicly about poor working conditions for quality assurance testers at the company.

A number of Activision Blizzard employees have spoken out publicly about poor working conditions for quality assurance testers at the company.

Speaking to Kotaku, testers based out of multiple Activision Blizzard offices described conditions that included inadequate pay, a lack of benefits like dental care and paid sick leave, and a contract-based hiring system that left employees in an unstable hiring state, with uncertainty on if they would have their contracts renewed.

Employees also apparently regularly clock 50-60 hour weeks, with some passing 70 hours in some circumstances. Those long hours mean they either work 12 hour days during a 5-day workweek, or have to add a 10 hour day on Saturday.

Notably, Kotaku managed to speak to employees at multiple Activision Blizzard offices, who were able to detail how some contract QA employees don’t benefit from state regulations that other employees do. In a Texas office for instance, QA employees are not offered paid sick leave—something that QA testers in California do receive as mandated by California law.

QA testers have long born the brunt of cost-cutting and cut corners in managing the financials of the game industry, but Activision Blizzard is a company that regularly boasts huge earnings in its quarterly and annual financial reports. CEO Bobby Kotick did take a salary cut down to $875,000 per year in 2021, but will still receive a financial package worth millions of dollars if the company hits certain financial goals.

That’s a huge discrepancy between the executives who reap the benefits of Activision Blizzard’s earnings, and the employees who make it possible.

Another issue for QA testers was the unstable contract nature of their employment, alongside hourly wages that don’t match the cost of living in their respective areas. “I know many people who literally cannot take time off of work right now despite their mental health being absolutely awful, because they wouldn’t be able to afford basic necessities such as rent and food,” one tester named Billy stated.

Workers also described a set of structural human resources failures that negatively impact LGBTQ employees. Billy said that after a coworker made an insensitive joke about gender identity shortly after they updated their pronouns on Slack, a query to HR about improved sensitivity training went unanswered.

Elsewhere a transgender tester named Andrew explained that internal HR software regularly resets names even after a change is requested, running the risk of outing him to his coworkers. (Andrew did wish to iterate that he’s received “nothing but respect” in regards to his identity from his direct colleagues, but that experience “is not universal” across the company.)

This second issue might intersect with a lawsuit filed by the State of California Department of Equal Employment and Housing that alleged Activision Blizzard fostered a toxic culture of sexual harassment and discrimination, assuming the allegations cover the company’s California branches.

The last few weeks have been filled with revelations about the conduct that drove the California lawsuit, followed by flailing reactions from Activision Executives, firings, and most importantly, worker mobilization to demand better working conditions at the company.

Update (8/13): An Activision Blizzard representative provided the following comment in response to our query about Kotaku's story:

"It is important that everyone is treated with respect," they said. "If any of our employees - full-time or part-time - raises concerns about mistreatment, we work to address those concerns as soon as possible. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for harassment of any kind. We expect the agencies who employ contractors to adhere to the same standards."

"We have extraordinary talent contributing to game development and seek to improve how we recognize, reward, and encourage the success of our people. Our business is changing rapidly, and we continue to adapt and improve compensation to build and keep the workforce our company needs today and tomorrow."

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