Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources Jesse Meschuk has left Activision Blizzard; in the ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit.
In recent news, Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack announced he was stepping down. Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will now take his place as as co-leads of the company moving forward. Bloomberg now report that, along with Brack, Meschuk also left the company.
The initial allegations claimed complaints to human resources and Brack were ignored, and led to female employees quitting or suffering involuntary transfers, layoffs, and denial of projects and other opportunities. The human resources department also featured personnel who were close friends with the alleged harassers, and failed to keep complaints confidential.
Axios report that dozens of current and former Activision Blizzard employees claimed the company’s culture favored clan mentality; and that the harassment was well know and well documented. Activision Blizzard even allegedly protected those who had harassed others from punitive actions.
Those complaining about abusers were allegedly cautioned against it; saying things akin to “this isn’t a fight you want to fight.” Four sources speaking to Axios described how in the past decade representatives allegedly (in Axios words) “bullied, belittled, or showed skepticism after being informed of alleged harassment or assault.”
One employee who reported their boss was allegedly told “Even if [Blizzard wants] to take it seriously, I’m not even sure what we would do.” Nicki Broderick, a former Blizzard employee, told Axios she had approached human resources several times.
Broderick describes how in an argument with her manager, he allegedly “stood over me at my desk and wouldn’t let me leave, wouldn’t let me reach for my phone.” When this was reported to human resources, she was told “it’s not harassment. He didn’t touch you.” Broderick claims this manager was “untouchable,” and was later promoted into a senior position at Activision Blizzard.
After this, Broderick claims her career growth was “stunted”, and she was not given any new projects, nor considered for promotion three years after that incident. Another incident saw human resources allegedly telling her she was “acting like a brat,” and to “suck it up” and return to her desk.
A five-year current employee told Axios that after she was allegedly physically assaulted, human resources met her report with instant skepticism; commenting they were surprised she was not crying or hysterical. Allegedly, no measures were put in place to protect her after this; instead she was encourage to work from home or switch departments.
When speaking to human resources about the matter again later, a representative allegedly told her “He’s really sorry and he really wants to work at Blizzard. And he says that you were really friendly with him.”
Sources also told Axios that Activision Blizzard’s HR department had an allegedly high turnover rate; contributing to part of the problem. Some representatives were allegedly gone within a few months, in addition to them being spread too thin.
The reason for this was unclear to the sources, and nonetheless made reporting difficult as new representatives would not have the context of the alleged company culture. Next steps and resolutions were also allegedly vague and lacked transparency. Former Blizzard employee Andrew Buczacki claimed there was a “surprising lack of paper trail. […] You’re just sort of saying these things out into the void.”
As such, employees had to make their own records. If not, “it just sort of turns into this verbal agreement,” Buckzacki claimed. “And then that can just be a piece of leverage or plausible deniability from Blizzard administration and management.”
One source supported the claims that what was reported to human resources was not private. Another said how harassment was dismissed as a joke, where the work culture where allegedly “guys being shitheads to other guys” was normal, and that “You’re just supposed to just take it and can dish it back as well.”
“I felt like in order for me to survive in this situation,” a former Activision Blizzard employee told Axios, “because I wanted to work there long term, I [had] to go along with it. […] It doesn’t matter how creative and intelligent and brilliant someone is. Stand by your morals, stand by the company values, and get them out, because it’s not worth it.”
An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Axios in a statement that “every allegation seriously and will investigate all claims. We will not tolerate anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences. If employees have any concerns about how Human Resources handled claims, we have other reporting options, including anonymous ones.”
Regarding Broderick, the spokesperson stated “such conduct is abhorrent and will not be tolerated. We appreciate the courage of any current or former employee in coming forward and will fully investigate any such claims brought to our attention.”
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment, which may have led to one woman who committed suicide on a company trip, and discrimination for women being paid less and promoted less frequently and after longer periods of time.
Activision Blizzard stated that while “there is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind,” they felt the Californian report “ includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” An internal email from Activision executive Frances Townsend described the allegations as “factually incorrect, old and out of context.”
In response, almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.” It also called for official statements “that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.”
As aforementioned; staff led a walkout on July 28th. Their list of demands included ending mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, adopting policies to improve representation at all levels of the company, publishing pay data to show women are paid and promoted fairly, and hiring a third party to audit the company’s executive and HR staff.
Sources claimed staff would not be punished for the walkout, and had paid time off. Kotick later stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf.”
Along with bringing in a law firm to conduct an immediate review of Activision Blizzard policies and procedures; Kotick stated the company would investigate all the claims, creating safe spaces for Listening Sessions organized by third parties, an immediate evaluation of managers and leaders, compliance resources for diverse hiring, and removing NPCs from World of Warcraft inspired by those named in the allegations.
The staff stated they were dissatisfied with Kotick’s response to the lawsuit; stating it did not address ending forced arbitration, workers involved in the oversight of hiring and promotion policies, greater pay transparency, or employee selection of a third party to audit the company processes and HR.
Further, almost 500 former and current Ubisoft employees announced their support for Activision Blizzard staff in an open letter; calling for new industry-wide rules and processes. Jeff Strain, a former Blizzard Entertainment developer and founder of Undead Labs, recently called for unionization of the video games industry.
An “alliance” of Activision Blizzard staff have demanded WilmerHale not be the third party auditing the company. This is due to an alleged conflict of interest, the law firms alleged “history of discouraging workers’ rights and collective action,” and Avakian specializing in “protecting the wealthy and powerful.”