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Activision Blizzard employees call leadership response to harassment suit ‘abhorrent and insulting’

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More than 800 employees have signed an open letter to leadership

activision blizzard Image: Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard employees are speaking out over company leadership’s “abhorrent and insulting” response to a California state investigation and lawsuit that alleged the company’s toxic culture led to “constant sexual harassment” for female employees.

A group of Blizzard employees have gathered more than 800 signatures from current and former employees across the company in support of a letter that demands Activision Blizzard release a statement that “recognize[s] the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.”

The letter says that Activision Blizzard’s response to allegations of harassment and sexism at the company “damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry,” “casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions,” and “make[s] it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first.”

“We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again,” the statement reads.

You can read the entirety of the letter, sent to Polygon, below:

To the Leaders of Activision Blizzard,

We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for. To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.

We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry. Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.

Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action — and the troubling official responses that followed — we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit,” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse, is simply unacceptable.

We call for official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault. We call on Frances Townsend to stand by her word to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement. We call on the executive leadership team to work with us on new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees — as well as our community — have a safe place to speak out and come forward.

We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind. We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.

The employee letter comes after executives at the company released various internal statements regarding the allegations of “constant sexual harassment” and “frat boy” culture. Blizzard president J. Allen Brack released one on Thursday, calling the allegations “extremely troubling.” Activision president Rob Kostich echoed that statement, calling the behaviors described “deeply disturbing.” It was a major tone shift from Activision Blizzard’s initial statement, which suggested the DFEH investigation — which had been ongoing for two years — included “distorted” and “false” descriptions of the workplace.

Activision Blizzard executive vice president (and former George W. Bush homeland security advisor) Fran Townsend doubled down on the original statement in a letter sent to staff Friday. She called the lawsuit’s claims “distorted and untrue,” describing the DFEH lawsuit as “truly meritless and irresponsible.”

Both current and former employees began posting on social media following Townsend’s statement. The group of Activision Blizzard employees is calling for Townsend to step down as the executive sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network. Several current employees told Polygon that staff felt “disgusted” at the company response, noting that the lawsuit’s claims are reportedly only the tip of the iceberg. A source told Polygon that dozens more employees have since reached out to DFEH about adding their stories to the lawsuit.

“We appreciate the support of our fellow co-workers, past ABK employees, and our communities during this time,” a representative for the group of Activision Blizzard employees told Polygon. “Rest assured we intend to demand change, and hold our leaders and companies accountable to the values we signed onto when joining.”

Activision Blizzard has not responded to Polygon’s inquiry about the open letter.