Activision Blizzard has confirmed that more than 20 employees have “exited” the company as part of its efforts to change its internal culture following allegations of fostering a “frat boy” workplace. The video game company has published the letter Executive VP for Corporate Affairs Fran Townsend sent to employees revealing the move, in which she also said that more than 20 other individuals faced different types of disciplinary action. Back in July, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against the developer for allowing a work environment wherein female employees were allegedly subjected to constant sexual harassment.
The agency, which sued the company after a two-year investigation, detailed several of its findings in the lawsuit. It said female employees constantly have to fend off unwanted sexual comments, and that they have to endure being groped by male colleagues. They’re also not paid as much as their male counterparts, are typically promoted more slowly and fired more quickly. At the time, Townsend told employees that the lawsuit “presented a distorted” picture of the company and that it included “factually incorrect, old and out of context stories.” Hundreds of employees walked out in protest over the company’s response.
Now, in her letter, Townsend said that there’s a team dedicated to investigating harassment claims, “working tirelessly to ensure that, moving forward, [the company] is a place where people are not only heard, but empowered.” The team received an increasing number of reports in recent months, including concerns from years ago, and it was the members’ investigation that led to the exit of more than 20 employees. Townsend declined to name those individuals, but she told Financial Times that they include several game developers and a few supervisors. None of them came from senior management or from the board.
A Kotaku report from August named three senior designers who abruptly exited the company. Two of them — Diablo 4 lead designer Jesse McCree and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft — were previously pictured inside the Cosby Suite. In its lawsuit, DEFH said the Cosby Suite is a room with a photo of Bill Cosby where male employees allegedly harassed women during company events.
To be able to handle more complaints, Activision Blizzard hired three full-time employees to join the investigation team. It’s also adding 19 more full-time roles to its overall Ethics & Compliance Team, two of which will be dedicated to overseeing investigations for the EMEA and APAC regions. Townsend admitted that the team can’t always share the details of an investigation, but she also promised more transparency “We know there’s a desire to know about the outcome when misconduct is reported. Sometimes, there are privacy reasons we can’t share. But where we can, we will be sharing more information with you. We will also be providing you regular aggregate data about investigative outcomes,” she wrote in her letter.