Activision uses Wilmer probe to obscure ‘brotherhood’ affair – agency

The entrance to the Activision Blizzard Inc. campus is shown in Irvine, California, USA, August 6, 2019. REUTERS / Mike Blake

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(Reuters) – California anti-discrimination agency accused Activision Blizzard Inc of suppressing evidence of sexual harassment and prejudice against female workers and of using an internal investigation by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr to interfere with the state’s investigation of its employment practices.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed an amended lawsuit against Activision in state court on Monday, saying the leading video game developer was directing employees to bring issues to Wilmer Hale’s attorneys, then claiming that the information was confidential and refused to hand it over.

“This directly interferes with the statutory mandate of the DFEH to investigate, prosecute and remedy violations of discrimination and harassment in the workplace on behalf of employees and casual or temporary workers who have engaged in or were perceived to be involved in protection activities, “wrote the agency’s lawyers.

Santa Monica-based Activision, in a statement provided by a spokesperson, said the company had complied with “all appropriate requests” made by DFEH.

“We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we have no gender pay or promotion disparities,” the company said. “Our leadership is increasingly diverse, with an increasing number of women occupying key leadership positions across the company. “

A representative for Wilmer Hale did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Activision owns a number of very popular video game franchises, including Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft.

DFEH sued the company in July, claiming it routinely underpays and does not promote female employees and tolerated “constant sexual harassment.”

The lawsuit alleges that male employees of the company engaged in events called “cube crawls” in which they got drunk and harassed female employees. An employee is said to have died by suicide under pressure from a supervisor, with whom she had had sexual relations, while on a business trip.

J. Allen Brack stepped down as president of Activision Blizzard two weeks after the complaint was filed. The DFEH alleged that Brack and other senior Activision executives were aware of the company’s “frat boy” culture and took no action to change it.

In a statement released after the complaint was filed, Activision claimed that the DFEH’s claims were inaccurate and accused the DFEH of “shameful and unprofessional” conduct during its investigation.

But in Monday’s amended complaint, the agency said it was Activision that was preventing DFEH from doing its job.

When detaining Wilmer Hale, DFEH said, Activision encouraged employees to report violations of company policies or any incidents that made workers “uncomfortable” to an unidentified Wilmer Hale lawyer .

In turn, Activision has denied the agency’s requests for documents and communications regarding the complaints filed by workers and any investigation of those complaints, according to Monday’s filing.

DFEH said the company violated a state law requiring individuals not to “willfully resist, prevent, hinder or interfere” with the performance of their duties by the department.

The agency also said any waivers or waivers signed by Activision employees during the internal investigation should be declared unenforceable.

The case is Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Activision Blizzard Inc, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. 21STCV26571.

For the Ministry of Fair Employment and Housing: Rumduol Vuong

For Activision: Not available

Daniel Wiessner

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) discusses labor, employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy development. He can be reached at [email protected]

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