Activision Blizzard employees represented by the ABetterABK worker group filed a lawsuit against the Call of Duty publisher with the National Labor Review Board yesterday accusing it of union busting. It comes in the wake of a bombshell California lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at the company.
“Activision Blizzard management is using coercive tactics to attempt to prevent its employees from exercising their rights to stand together and demand a more equitable, sustainable, and diverse workplace,” the CODE-CWA (Campaign to Organize Digital Employees), which has partnered with ABetterABK for the lawsuit, wrote in a press release today.
“If the NLRB rules in our favor, the ruling will be retroactive and we will set a precedent that no worker in the U.S. can be intimidated out of talking about forced arbitration,” the group wrote on Twitter.
According to the complaint, Activision Blizzard told employees “they cannot communicate with or discuss ongoing investigations of wages, hours and working conditions,” and has leveraged its social media policies, “surveillance,” and employee “interrogations,” to try and punish employees for engaging in worker activity that’s protected under federal law.
“We think since they’re being so outspoken, leadership is trying to get rid of them,” one current employee told Vice’s Waypoint. They said this has contributed to some employees going silent or leaving the company altogether. “We’ve seen retaliation already, so I’m scared,” they told Waypoint.
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in July accused Activision Blizzard of “frat boy” workplace culture that could serve as a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women,” including unequal pay and “unwanted sexual comments and advances.” The fallout from that lawsuit, which the company said mischaracterized some past events and was not reflective of its current workplace culture, led current and former employees to sign an open letter and launch an one-day walkout condemning the company’s response.
It also resulted in the formation of ABetterABK, a worker group on behalf of Activision, Blizzard, and King employees, which has since called on management to make several changes including increasing pay transparency, improving diverse hiring practices, and ending forced arbitration. Seven weeks later, Activision Blizzard management, led by CEO Bobby Kotick, still hasn’t acknowledged the group’s demands.
The company has yet to respond to the California lawsuit’s claims in court, and in the meantime has hired the services of law firm WilmerHale—which among other things specializes in helping corporations fight off unionization efforts—to help review and reform its HR practices.
ABetterABK has also criticized that move, saying the firm has a conflict of interest because of its pre-existing business ties to Activision Blizzard. “We call on you and your executive leadership team to do better, and to fully address our list of demands,” the group said in a statement last month.