10 months after an alleged California lawsuit widespread sexual harassment and discrimination to Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard, employees of the company do not feel they have made the necessary changes and have created a committee of workers to demand further reforms. Chief among them are calls for independent investigations, an end to retaliation, trans-inclusive health care, and breastfeeding protections.
“We believe it is imperative that workers have a say in Activision Blizzard’s anti-discrimination policies. Without this, the company’s culture of harassment and abuse will continue to run unchecked,” said said the senior graphic designer and member of the Workers Against Sex and Gender Committee. Discrimination, Emily Knief said in a statement today. “We hope to have a productive conversation with the leadership in which they recognize these growing concerns and embrace the demands made by the committee.”
The list of demands, as first reported by The Washington Post, includes things like the committee having a say in policy development, witnesses at HR meetings, and more resources for customer support and community managers dealing with customer harassment. It also calls, with respect to cases of sexual harassment or discrimination, for clearer purposes for mandatory arbitration and corporate retaliation that go beyond existing corporate concessions in these areas.
“We appreciate these employees wanting to join us in building a better Activision Blizzard and continuing the progress we have already made,” Activision Blizzard spokeswoman Jessica Taylor said in a statement. “We have, for example, already upgraded our lactation facilities, waived arbitration, hired new DEI and EEO leaders, and worked with employees to make our policies and processes more inclusive Trans, to name a few issues raised by the letter.
ActivisionBlizzard promised to quit mandatory arbitration of harassment and sex discrimination complaints when employees request it, but the committee is calling for this practice to be ended entirely. Similarly, Activision Blizzard says it has a strict anti-retaliation policy, but the committee is asking that “retaliation” be defined more specifically.
“Within 180 days of filing a grievance, or until the dispute is resolved, if an employee is demoted or removed from their team or if their job changes in some other way (the job is taken away from them for example , or he is disciplined) this action is presumed to be retaliatory,” he wrote. currently being sued by an employee who alleges that in addition to facing sexual harassment and misconduct, she faced retaliation from managers after reporting it in the form of missed promotions and poor performance reviews.
The committee also has a detailed list of requests relating specifically to breastfeeding and cites a number of concerns shared by employees over the years:
1. Chairs in private rooms would tip backwards and not be able to be locked into position to properly position for pumping. Many workers were sitting on the ground pumping.
2. The tables were made of wood, were porous and textured so that even though they were cleaned, breast milk would pool and pool on the table discoloring and leaving milk trapped on the table.
3. The outlet situation was a fire hazard. There are only two outlets per room, one outlet being used by a lamp with a USB outlet for phones and another outlet for the pump. There are no laptop sockets or additional space to place a laptop if workers wish to work in this room. This resulted in the use of extension cords.
4. Insufficient storage space: there were no locked lockers for workers to keep their pumps safe. Many workers had to drag them around campus several times a day because they didn’t want to leave them behind.
5. Refrigerators had padlocks that were not consistently locked or accessible to other workers. The workers also used the refrigerators to store their beer, but the reason they were locked in the first place was due to the theft of the workers’ breast milk.
6. Sanitation standards were not met. It didn’t seem like housekeeping cleaned these rooms consistently like the rest of the offices.
Similar issues have been previously reportedand were shared on social media last December when a former Blizzard developer said their breastmilk had been stolen from the fridge at work. According to Activision Blizzard, there are more properly equipped pump locations, “Quiet Rooms” now have PIN codes, and fridges are locked.
“We encourage any employee who witnesses or experiences inappropriate behavior to report it so that it can be investigated,” the company said. However, such answers are part of the problem. While the committee demands direct involvement in the decision-making process, the company has refrained from offering it.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the committee’s request regarding interactions with HR. Employees want them all documented and given the option of bringing another colleague with them. This is a common practice among unionized workers. Instead, Activision Blizzard suggested employees with concerns “approach a senior leader they trust.” Last fall, thousands of company employees called on its top executive, CEO Bobby Kotick, to resign.
The committee’s demands come a day after QA developers at one of Activision’s Call of Duty studios successfully formed the first-ever union. at a major American gaming company. Today the company announced that modern warfare 2 will be released on October 28.
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