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NLRB alleges Activision Blizzard illegally surveilled employees in new complaint

The NLRB plans to charge Activision Blizzard with illegally surveilling its staff and threatening to shut down their communication channels.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

April 3, 2023

2 Min Read
Blue-and-white company logo for game publisher Activision Blizzard.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently filed a complaint against Activision Blizzard. Per IGN, the organization has three separate charges for the game developer, relating to allegations of illegally surveilling its employees and violating labor laws in the process.

One charge dates back to July 2022, when employees of Activision Blizzard engaged in a walkout organized by the worker advocacy group, ABK Workers Alliance. Walkouts took place at the California, Texas, and Minnesota offices of Blizzard Entertainment, with employees going to the NLRB the following month. 

In that August filing, the employees claimed Activision Blizzard had participated in coercive statements and actions and concentrated activities such as active retaliation. At the time, the developer dismissed those claims, saying Activision Blizzard "routinely have PR staff on-site, at a respectful distance from employees on strike, to assist media.”

IGN confirmed that the NLRB will follow through on that charge, along with another alleging the studio threatened to cut off internal staff channels. Last May, the NLRB accused Activision Blizzard of violating rights by enforcing an "overly broad" social media policy on staff. 

During that time, the studio also allegedly forbid workers from discussing any investigation of staff wages and working conditions. The NLRB found merit to those accusations back then, even as Activision Blizzard denied the allegations, stressing that employee rights are incorporated into the company's social media policy. 

The NLRB's contentious relationship with Activision Blizzard continues

As for the third charge, the NLRB dismissed claims that it was in violation of Section 7 laws. This was reportedly tied to an all-hands meeting during the summer and the meeting's chat channel shutdown.

Unlike the first two complaints, this one was filed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Previously, the CWA has accused Activision Blizzard of wrongfully firing employees and disparaging unions in company-wide Slack channels.

According to IGN, the company's chief administrative officer Brian Bulatao told employees via Slack that chat channels would be disabled in all all-hands meetings going forward. It was allegedly done after a "particularly disruptive" meeting where employees used it as an opportunity to insult other staff, including members of the Diablo Immortal team.

"We stand by our Slack and Workplace Integrity policies," wrote Bulutao in a message obtained by IGN. "We continue to support employees' rights to express their views and values. [...] But abusive behavior is never okay."

Blizzard responded to each of the three charges, stressing that the chat shut down was done to protect its staff from "toxic workplace behavior. [...] We strongly believe employees shouldn't have to be subjected to insults and put downs for their hard work – especially on company communications platforms."

Touching on the two charges that NLRB plans to file, the company referred to them as "false claims." 

For more on the NLRB's filing against Activision Blizzard, you can read IGN's detailed report.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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