Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has issued a public statement addressed to all employees concerning the harassment lawsuit against his company.
The full statement is as follows:
This has been a difficult and upsetting week.
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.
It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.
Many of you have told us that active outreach comes from caring so deeply for the Company. That so many people have reached out and shared thoughts, suggestions, and highlighted opportunities for improvement is a powerful reflection of how you care for our communities of colleagues and players – and for each other. Ensuring that we have a safe and welcoming work environment is my highest priority. The leadership team has heard you loud and clear.
We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.
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.
I have asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.
We encourage anyone with an experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to use any of our many existing channels for reporting or to reach out to Stephanie. She and her team at WilmerHale will be available to speak with you on a confidential basis and can be reached at ATVI@wilmerhale.com or 202-247-2725. Your outreach will be kept confidential. Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated.
We are committed to long-lasting change. Effective immediately, we will be taking the following actions.
- Employee Support. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team.
- Listening Sessions. We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.
- Personnel Changes. We are immediately evaluating 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.
- Hiring Practices. Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.
- In-game Changes. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content.
Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.
You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world.
Blizzard’s promise today to remove “inappropriate” content from World of Warcraft mirrors the steps mentioned in Kotick’s statement. While details were scarce, many assume this to mean in-game references to creative director Alex Afrasiabi, one of the men accused of harassment in the lawsuit, will be expunged from the game.
This comes amid a rapid series of events over the last week, that began July 21 when news broke that the state of California is suing Activision Blizzard for allowing an environment of harassment to fester in its ranks, largely targeting the massive company’s female staffers.
“Female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment,” the lawsuit reads, “including having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors and being groped at the ‘cube crawls’ and other company events. High-ranking executives and creators engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.”
Kotick’s message is in stark contrast to the public reaction Activision Blizzard exhibited in the early days of this controversy, during which a spokesperson referred to the lawsuit as “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats.” In private, Bush-era torture apologist and Activision Blizzard chief compliance officer Frances F. Townsend issued an internal memo calling the suit “meritless.”
Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard employees are speaking out against what they regard as their employers’ inadequate and even offensive response to the lawsuit’s serious allegations. Over 2,000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed a letter condemning their company’s response to the allegations, while some are planning to take part in a walkout tomorrow, July 28.
Update (07/28/2021, 12:28 p.m. ET): The organizers of today’s Activision Blizzard employee walkout have responded to Kotick’s statement in an effort to highlight several key topics the executive failed to address. These include the end of forced arbitration and greater pay transparency.
The group’s full response follows below (emphasis theirs):
On the evening before our employee walkout, Activision Blizzard leadership released a statement apologizing for their harmful responses to last week’s DFEH lawsuit. While we are pleased to see that our collective voices—including an open letter with thousands of signatures from current employees—have convinced leadership to change the tone of their communications, this response fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns.
Activision Blizzard’s response did not address the following:
- The end of forced arbitration for all employees.
- Worker participation in oversight of hiring and promotion policies.
- The need for greater pay transparency to ensure equality.
- Employee selection of a third party to audit HR and other company processes.
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.
This is the beginning of an enduring movement in favor of better labor conditions for all employees, especially women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups.
We expect a prompt response and a commitment to action from leadership on the points enumerated above, and look forward to maintaining a constructive dialogue on how to build a better Activision Blizzard for all employees.
Today, we stand up for change. Tomorrow and beyond, we will be the change.