Activision Blizzard hit with new sexual harassment and misconduct lawsuit

UPDATE: An Activision Blizzard rep has told Game Developer the company has "no tolerance for this kind of misconduct."

CW: This article contains detailed allegations of sexual harassment

Activision Blizzard has been hit with another lawsuit littered with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. 

The news comes as the company attempts to address a cultural crisis that arose when serious allegations of misconduct and harassment were made public, prompting investigations into the Call of Duty publisher by government agencies such as the DFEH and SEC.

As reported by Kotaku, the latest suit was filed in Los Angeles by an anonymous former employee and is directed at the company itself and former senior product manager, Miguel Vega.

The complaint, which refers to the unnamed former employee as Ms. Jane Doe, alleges that Activision Blizzard's "failure to curb sexist and harassing conduct emboldened manager Miguel Vega to abuse, belittle and insult Ms. Doe by making comments to her about oral sex, masturbation and orgasms, threatening her job if she would not consent to sex, mocking her breasts, and commenting on other female employees' attractiveness."

The suit also alleges that Vega threatened to expose a compromising photograph of Ms. Doe.

According to the suit, Ms. Doe and Vega first met in 2009 or 2010 at a game night before she joined Activision Blizzard. It states the two "soon formed a virtual friendship and she regrettably sent him compromising photos of herself."

Ms. Doe states their friendship ended in 2011 after she met her future husband, but that Vega helped her join Activision Blizzard as an independent contractor in 2016, which eventually turned in to a full-time role within the Player Support department.

Detailing some of her experiences at the company between 2016 and 2021, Ms. Doe claims she was "repeatedly groped" by Vega, who would make repeated sexual advances within the workplace.

"At work, Mr. Vega repeatedly groped Ms. Doe’s breasts around a dozen times. On each occasion, he would squeeze, grab or poke her breasts and she immediately recoiled at these unwanted advances," continues the suit. "He often attempted to kiss her at work. All of Mr. Vega's sexual advances upon Ms. Doe were unwelcomed. After each time she rejected him, he’d assure her that 'one day it’ll happen' or 'one day you’ll give in.'"

Ms. Doe claims that Vega also "abused, belittled, and insulted" her on a professional level, and would constantly shoot down her ideas, telling her that she was a "no one" who was failing "a job a monkey could do."

There are numerous specific allegations of sexual harassment detailed in the suit, including one instance where Vega allegedly walked Ms. Doe to a vacant part of the office during a party and asked if she would give him oral sex if he were to "whip it out right here."

Ms. Doe said Vega would ask her how often she pleasured herself, and allegedly insinuated she would need to have sex with him in order to secure a pay rise.

"When Ms. Doe expressed to Mr. Vega on several occasions that she felt underpaid, Mr. Vega often replied with a quid pro quo proposal: 'Well you know what you need to do' while he pointed to his crotch," reads the suit.

Vega is accused of threatening to release compromising photographs of Ms. Doe to dissuade her from reporting him to HR, although the suit claims she did precisely that in 2017 to no avail – claiming that "Activision Blizzard did nothing" to address the situation.

According to the suit, Vega was eventually reported directly to Ms. Doe's manager in 2021 and attempted to "mitigate the harm he caused her" by leaving a voicemail. He was then terminated shortly afterwards on September 1, 2021.

Ms. Doe is seeking a full jury trial alongside damages, legal fees, lost earnings, and medical costs.

UPDATE: Activision Blizzard spokesperson Mark Herr has reached out to Game Developer to explain the U.S. publisher immediately opened an investigation into Vega's behavior after Ms. Doe reported her concerns. 

"We take all employee concerns seriously," said Herr. "When the plaintiff reported her concerns, we immediately opened an investigation, and Mr. Vega was terminated within 10 days. We have no tolerance for this kind of misconduct."

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