Activision Blizzard CEO apologizes for ‘tone deaf’ response to discrimination lawsuit

Apology came hours before employees staged a walkout

Activision Blizzard CEO apologizes for ‘tone deaf’ response to discrimination lawsuit

Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick apologized for the company’s response to a California discrimination lawsuit, hours before hundreds of employees staged a walkout to protest the gaming giant’s alleged “frat boy” work culture.

In his letter to employees released Tuesday night, Kotick admitted the company’s initial response to the charges was “tone deaf” and promised to take “swift action” to ensure that employees have a safe work environment. 

“Every voice matters – and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future,” he wrote. “I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”

Kotick’s response came hours before current and former employees participated in virtual and in-person protests Wednesday morning to demand changes to the gaming company’s workplace culture.

Accusations of unequal pay, gender bias, and harassment surfaced last week when California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit alleging Activision Blizzard – which is behind popular video games Call of Duty, Candy Crush, and World of Warcraft – of breeding a workplace culture where female employees are continually subjected to “unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male coworkers.”

Activision Blizzard denied the allegations claiming they were “distorted and in many cases false” in a statement last week, prompting more than 2,600 employees to sign a petition objecting to the company’s response.

On Wednesday morning, hundreds of employees gathered outside the gaming firm’s head office in Irvine while hundreds more took part virtually. Organizers demanded that the company “improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, non-binary people and other marginalized groups.”

The walkout also gained the support of video game streamers and eSports teams, who deferred from posting on social media for the duration of the protest.

In his letter, Kotick announced a slew of policy changes, including providing additional employee support and listening sessions, evaluation of managers and leaders, and a review of the company’s hiring practices. He also hired law firm WilmerHale to review the company’s policies “to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace.”

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