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Activision Blizzard touts new "zero-tolerance" harassment policy after failing to halt misconduct lawsuit

The latest pledges include CEO Kotick's request to lower his salary to $62,500 until conditions improve and a promise to waive mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

October 28, 2021

3 Min Read

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has outlined five steps the company intends to take in order to curb misconduct.

As the publisher continues to grapple with a wave of serious harassment allegations, which prompted a number of lawsuits and investigations into the firm, Kotick claims Activision Blizzard still intends to lead by example when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

The latest pledges come just days after Activision Blizzard failed to have one harassment lawsuit paused over an alleged ethics violation by the legal team involved.

In a lengthy update posted on the Activision Blizzard website, Kotick indicated the company has been too lenient when allegations of harassment have been discovered and substantiated, and will implement a zero-tolerance policy moving forward.

"In the past, when we discovered and substantiated harassment, we terminated some employees and provided verbal or written warnings or different disciplinary actions to others. In retrospect, to achieve our goals for workplace excellence, this approach is no longer adequate. We need tougher rules and consistent monitoring across the entire company to make sure reports are being handled correctly and discipline is appropriate and swift," said Kotick.

"As a result, we are implementing a zero-tolerance policy across Activision Blizzard that will be applied consistently. Our goal is to have the strictest harassment and non-retaliation policies of any employer, and we will continue to examine and tighten our standards to achieve this goal everywhere we do business."

In addition, Activision Blizzard claims it will work to increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in its workforce by 50 percent, and will invest $250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent.

Based on employee feedback, the company has also agreed to waive mandatory arbitration of sexual harrasment and discrimination claims, and has committed to increasing visibility on pay equity by publicly sharing more salary details.

Finally, Activision Blizzard said it will continue to provide regular progress updates in the name of transparency by sharing more details on gender hiring, diversity hiring, and workplace progress in its annual report to shareholders and ESG report.

Kotick himself has also asked the Activision Blizzard board to reduce his salary to $62,500, which is the lowest amount California law allows, until the company has "achieved the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described above."

The CEO explained the reduction represents a decrease in his "overall compensation," and claimed he won't receive any bonuses or be granted any equity during this time.

Kotick also apologized to those who've experienced harassment at work, although that apology notably comes after the company chose to rubbish the initial harassment lawsuit as "distorted" and "false."

"I truly wish not a single employee had had an experience at work that resulted in hurt, humiliation, or worse – and to those who were affected, I sincerely apologize," said Kotick. "You have my commitment that we will do everything possible to honor our values and create the workplace every member of this team deserves."

Activision Blizzard is currently being sued and investigated by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Back in September, Kotick pledged to comply with those misconduct investigations.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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