Nearly 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed an open letter condemning the company's response to a state lawsuit filed last week in California, calling it "abhorrent and insulting," according to a report from Bloomberg. Activision Blizzard was sued last week by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing over an alleged culture of widespread sexism, harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
The lawsuit accused Activision Blizzard, the maker of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, of fostering a "frat boy" culture that created a "breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women." The company's official response was defensive, calling the claims "distorted" and "false" and insisting that lawsuits like this are forcing companies to leave California. A number of former employees have since spoken up to corroborate claims in the lawsuit, and dozens more current employees have reached out to the DFEH to share their stories, Polygon reported.
Although later statements from the respective presidents of subsidiaries Activision and Blizzard struck much more remorseful tones, a note sent to employees from Fran Townsend, a former Bush administration adviser who now serves as the company's executive vice president for corporate affairs, further aggravated the situation. Townsend called the lawsuit "distorted and untrue" and comprised of "out of context stories," and her comments were widely criticized on social media.
Employees who signed the open letter are calling for Townsend to step down as executive sponsor of the ABK Employee Women's Network. The letter also demands Activision Blizzard executive leadership "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."
"To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership," the letter reads. "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."