Activision Blizzard CEO Calls for Investigation Amid Discrimination Suit and Employee Walkout

Bing Guan | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • CEO Bobby Kotick published a letter Tuesday evening, apologizing for the company's initial "tone deaf" response to the lawsuit filed last week alleging discrimination and sexual harassment.
  • At least 50 employees are planning a walkout Wednesday at the company's Irvine, California, office.
  • In an internal letter, Chief Compliance Officer Frances Townsend had called the allegations a "distorted and untrue picture of our company."

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick recently outlined a plan to change company culture following a lawsuit alleging discrimination and sexual harassment against women.

In a letter to employees published Tuesday evening, and ahead of an employee walkout scheduled for Wednesday, Kotick apologized for the company's initial "tone deaf" response to the California lawsuit. He promised to take "swift action" and said he has hired a law firm to conduct a review of company policies and procedures.

Kotick said the company is providing employees additional support and safe spaces. Activision Blizzard will evaluate managers and leaders across the company. "Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated," he said. Activision Blizzard will also remove in-game content that employees and player communities have deemed inappropriate.

The lawsuit, filed on July 20 by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, said female employees make up about 20% of Activision Blizzard's workforce and that few women reach top roles in the company. "The women who do reach higher roles earn less salary, incentive pay and total compensation than their male peers," the lawsuit alleges.

The suit also said Activision Blizzard has a "frat boy culture" that's a "breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women," who are "subjected to constant sexual harassment."

The company's Chief Compliance Officer Frances Townsend called the allegations a "distorted and untrue picture of our company" and "factually incorrect, old and out of context," in an internal letter obtained by The Washington Post.

As of Tuesday, at least 2,600 current and former employees have signed a letter criticizing management's dismissive response to the lawsuit, and at least 50 employees plan to participate in the walkout on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.

"We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration," Kotick wrote.

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