KEY POINTS

  • A former employee said she was paid less than her ex-boyfriend for the same work
  • A manager asked one female employee what kind of pornography she watched
  • Room designated for breastfeeding did not have lock and men would walk in

Gaming giant Activision Blizzard sued by California over its "frat boy" culture last month is now facing the wrath of employees as disturbing accounts of alleged sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination emerge.

On July 20, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against the company for violating state laws by allowing to flourish a culture of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment of women.

Since the lawsuit, several former and current employees as well as people who interacted with Activision Blizzard have come forward with their own stories of discrimination and harassment.

Former customer service employee Shay Stein told New York Times that she had consistently been paid less than her ex-boyfriend who had joined the company at the same time as her and did the same work. She said one manager had contacted her on Facebook and asked her what kind of pornography she watched.

Another time, during a holiday party Stein was offered drugs by a manager, which she declined. This allegedly soured her relationship with the manager and hampered her career.

In 2015, security researcher Emily Mitchell had a harrowing experience at the Activision Blizzard booth at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference. One of the recruiters asked her if she was lost. Another asked if she was there at the conference with her boyfriend. Mitchell said she was wearing a t-shirt with "penetration expert" written on it, reported Vice. Penetration Expert is a term for a security audit.

"One of them asked me when was the last time I was personally penetrated, if I liked being penetrated, and how often I got penetrated," said Mitchell. "I was furious and felt humiliated so I took the free swag and left."

A source told IGN that Activision Blizzard had a breastfeeding room. But, the room previously did not have any locks. Men would allegedly walk into the breastfeeding room and "just stare."

On July 23, Activision Blizzard termed the California lawsuit "irresponsible behavior from unaccountable state bureaucrats that are driving many of the state’s best businesses out of California."

Executive Fran Townsend said in an email to employees that DFEH’s allegations are "a distorted and untrue picture of our company," reported Time. She also said that the lawsuit was "meritless and irresponsible."

The response from the company angered several employees and generated unprecedented demand for culture change within the company. In an effort to appease the employees, Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activism Blizzard shared an apologetic statement on July 27. He said, "I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters - and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future."

"Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf," Kotick added.

On July 28, over 1,500 employees walked out of their jobs to protest the toxic work culture even after the apology, reported the New York Times. Moreover, over a thousand employees signed a letter criticizing their employer and have said they would not stop making an uproar.

"Today’s walkout will demonstrate that this is not a one-time event that our leaders can ignore. We will not return to silence; we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point," read a statement from the employees, reported The Verge.

"Today, we stand up for change. Tomorrow and beyond, we will be the change," stated the employee response.

Activision Blizzard employees called for a protest over allegations of discrimination and harassment of female staff members Activision Blizzard employees called for a protest over allegations of discrimination and harassment of female staff members Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / KEVORK DJANSEZIAN