California sues Activision Blizzard over sexual harassment

Jul 22, 2021
California sues Activision Blizzard over sexual harassment

Activision Blizzard is a breeding ground for sexual harassment, with male workers fostering a “frat bro” culture full of rape jokes, harassment and groping that even drove one female employee to suicide, according to an explosive lawsuit brought by the state of California.

Male employees of the Santa Monica-based video-game publisher — whose titles include “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Guitar Hero” — subjected female employees to “constant sexual harassment,” according to the California suit, which was filed by the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing on Tuesday.

That includes “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,” the suit claims.

During the so-called “cube crawls,” male employees would “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees,” according to the suit.

The fact that 80 percent of Activision Blizzard’s employees are male meant that female employees felt they were unable to speak up about misconduct, the suit said. Women who reported sexual harassment were allegedly laid off, transferred to other teams involuntarily and denied opportunities to work on desirable projects.

Call of Duty screengrab
Activision Blizzard is the studio behind wildly popular games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

Activision Blizzard did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Post but has slammed the suit as containing “distorted” and “false” claims in statements to other media outlets.

In a statement, Activision Blizzard claimed the suit was filled with “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”

“We have been extremely cooperative w ith the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived,” the company said in a statement.


“They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so,” the company added. “Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court.

The company also fired back at state allegations that its toxic culture even drove one female employee to suicide while on a business trip “due to a sexual relationship that she had been having with her male superior,” according to the suit.

At a holiday party before her death, the woman’s male co-workers allegedly passed around a photo of her vagina, according to the suit. Following her death, police reportedly found that her unnamed male supervisor had “brought a butt plug and lubricant on this business trip.”

“We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family,” the company said.

While the suit contains frequent references to unnamed Activision employees, it calls out Blizzard president J. Allen Brack by name as being aware of and enabling misconduct.

The “World of Warcraft” team was especially prone to misconduct, according to the suit.

“World of Warcraft” senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi allegedly would “hit on female employees, telling him he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting, his arms around them” during company events.

“Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the ‘Crosby Suite’ after alleged rapist Bill Crosby,” reads the suit, in an apparent reference to Bill Cosby.

Other members of the World of Warcraft team would hit on female employees and make “derogatory comments about rape” with the encouragement of their supervisors, according to the suit.

One supervisor on the “World of Warcraft” team reportedly encouraged a male subordinate to “‘buy’ a prostitute to cure his bad mood,” the suit says.

Female employees of the company were also systemically paid less and promoted less frequently due to the possibility that they could become pregnant and miss work, according to the suit.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and was first reported by Bloomberg Law.


Shawn Utley

Shawn previously worked as a journalist for several local newspapers until he realized the potential of internet for news reporting. He joined the team as a contributor which provided him a platform to dedicate his experience and knowledge for a wider range of audience. He excels in curating business news for the website.