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California sues Activision Blizzard, alleging culture of sexual harassment

<i>Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images</i><br/>California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a civil lawsuit July 21 against one of America's largest video game developers Activision Blizzard
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a civil lawsuit July 21 against one of America's largest video game developers Activision Blizzard

By Alexandra Meeks, CNN Business

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday against one of America’s largest video game developers Activision Blizzard, alleging multiple female employees were subjected to gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and unequal pay.

“DFEH alleges that women were subjected to constant sexual harassment, including groping, comments, and advances,” the state agency said in a press release. “The lawsuit also alleges that the company’s executives and human resources personnel knew of the harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the unlawful conduct, and instead retaliated against women who complained.”

A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard, the company known for creating popular games including “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft,” told CNN they are taking the allegations seriously and have launched internal investigations for all claims.

“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone,” the spokesperson said. “There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind.”

California’s lawsuit contradicts the company’s claims, alleging Activision Blizzard fostered a “frat boy” work culture where female employees have to “continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male coworkers,” the filing says.

The company spokesperson told CNN action has been taken to address past issues involving cases of misconduct, blasting the state’s filing and investigation as “inaccurate” and “distorted.”

“The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today,” the spokesperson said. “Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams.”

The state, however, alleges in its lawsuit Activision Blizzard maintains a leadership team held exclusively by white men with few women in top roles. DFEH also claims female employees receive lower starting pay and are promoted more slowly than their male counterparts.

The gaming company told CNN they have strived to pay all employees fairly and have also enhanced internal programs to create channels for employees to report violations.

“We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come,” the spokesperson said.

Activision Blizzard is a leading gaming platform headquartered in Santa Monica, California with approximately 9,500 total employees and over 100 million players worldwide, the filing said.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to modify the attribution for Activision Blizzard’s spokesperson.

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