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Why is Microsoft Allowing Activision’s Pervasive Toxic Culture to Continue Unchecked?

Shining a spotlight on rampant accusations of harassment, unequal pay, and the toxic workplace that has defined Activision Blizzard under CEO Bobby Kotick

Dec 02, 2022


  • While defending other aspects of the merger, Microsoft has no plan to deal with Activision Blizzard's gender-based worker harassment, sexism, and bro culture.
  • Activision faces multiple lawsuits and investigations for its pervasive frat boy workplace culture, including by The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The CEO has known for years about sexual-misconduct allegations at his company and didn’t inform his board of some reports – including alleged rapes – according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • In November, Bobby Kotick said in a town hall to employees that he expects to run the business "pretty independently" under Microsoft – meaning no accountability.

Sexism, sexual harassment, excessive drinking, unequal pay, a culture that encourages victims to go with the flow, a Human Resources function that never functions when complaints are made. At the highest levels of leadership, executives ignore, explain away and, in some cases, are actually perpetrators of inexcusable behavior. Welcome to the world of Activision Blizzard, one of the biggest gaming companies with 9,500 employees worldwide.

According to the Washington Post, a gender-based discrimination, inequality and harassment lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing against Activision Blizzard, alleges “the company had a ‘frat boy culture’ that included excessive drinking and sexual harassment.”

It’s also the latest company that Microsoft has set to acquire.

As a coalition that supports the need for greater accountability in the technology industry, as well as, stronger worker protections and employer accountability, we encourage you to join us in asking Microsoft, a company with its own history of failing to protect its workers from gender-based and sexual harassment, to release its plan for ensuring that Activision Blizzard’s toxic culture doesn’t come along with the acquisition and make itself at home in the Microsoft ecosystem.

It’s a question that Microsoft hasn’t even deemed important enough to address on the website they created to promote the proposed merger (not one word!)

Activision's CEO Bobby Kotick has even told employees that he expects to run the business "pretty independently" under Microsoft – more business as usual with ZERO accountability.

Inside the Activision Blizzard lawsuit

On July 20, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread, gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The lawsuit followed an investigation by the DFEH that began in 2018 in response to complaints from Activision Blizzard employees. Activision Blizzard disputes the allegations, saying the lawsuit’s claims were “distorted, and in many cases false.”
  • 17 current and former employees interview by The Post detailed a workplace culture where women faced multiple incidents of harassment from men in leadership positions, and alcohol was free-flowing.
  • A Nov. 16 report from The Wall Street Journal alleged that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct allegations at the company but did not inform the board of directors. The report resulted in an employee walkout, a letter from an Activision shareholder group and a petition signed by employees demanding the resignation of several executives, including Kotick.
  • The DFEH lawsuit alleges that J. Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard Entertainment, was personally aware of employee complaints of sexual harassment directed at men with senior positions at the company. It also alleges he did not effectively mitigate those issues. Brack stepped down from his position as president on Aug. 3. The same day, Activision Blizzard confirmed that an executive in Blizzard’s human resources department was no longer with the company.
  • In response to the lawsuit and the ensuing statements of company leaders, Activision Blizzard employees wrote an open letter to the company’s leadership on July 26, rebuking them for what they perceived to be an “abhorrent and insulting” response to the lawsuit. Employees also organized a walkout July 28.
  • Several sponsors for Activision Blizzard-run esports leagues have pulled back advertising, The Post reported Aug. 5.
  • Content creators on Twitch and YouTube who often feature games made by Activision Blizzard have wrestled with how to approach the topic on their streams and videos.
  • Legal experts are interested in the outcome of the lawsuit, noting that the DFEH is highly selective in the cases it chooses to fight in court and that the suit could set a precedent for California labor law.
  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating Activision Blizzard, and has subpoenaed the company and several current and former employees. In a statement, Activision Blizzard said it was cooperating with the investigation.

It’s time to hold Activision and Microsoft accountable. Will you join us?