According to an Oct. 19 report by the Financial Times, Activision Blizzard Inc. has fired 20 employees over claims of harassment against them. The report cites a letter Activision Blizzard sent to staff on Tuesday, in which the company said it has also reprimanded 20 individuals.
Beyond these disciplinary actions, the letter also states that Activision Blizzard will be expanding its ethics and compliance team, which is responsible for creating a “more accountable workplace,” according to the Financial Times report.
This action from the company comes in the wake of multiple investigations into Activision Blizzard’s company culture regarding sexism and harassment. Legal issues started when the state of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against the company for worker discrimination. This suit claimed that Activision Blizzard fostered a toxic work environment with a “frat boy culture.” Just less than a month later, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced its own investigation into the company for how it handled sexual misconduct allegations and other issues.
Former US Homeland Security adviser turned Activision Blizzard chief of compliance, Frances Townsend, told the Financial Times that several of the fired employees came from game development and a few were supervisors, but noted that none were from the company’s board or senior management team. Townsend would not name any of the employees fired directly for legal reasons.
According to the Financial Times, Townsend cited a months-long investigation that found misconduct across multiple parts of the business for the firings.
“We call it as we see it,” she said to the Financial Times. “It doesn’t matter what your rank is, what your job is. If you’ve committed some sort of misconduct or you’re a leader who has tolerated a culture that is not consistent with our values, we’re going to take action. The impact on the business is not a consideration.”
Townsend also said she made a distinction between patterns of misconduct, and one-off incidents that could hopefully be corrected through training. She said that though most of these incidents apparently occurred off-site at events with alcohol, “the consequences of it are going to affect the workplace, and so that’s the reason we say we have got to address this.”
In addition to the firings and reprimands, Activision Blizzard claims it is trying to earn its teams’ trust and make them believe they will be heard when they speak up. The company has committed to tripling its investment into training resources and is adding 19 full time roles to its ethics and compliance team, according to the Financial Times.
here’s your reminder that leadership at Activision Blizzard have not met the demands of @ABetterABK. do not forget about the fight the employees are STILL fighting !! #ABetterABK #EndAbuseInGaming 💙 pic.twitter.com/gDGVGSOM2L
— chrissy🏹💙 (@chrissyxchi) September 14, 2021
These actions still have not fulfilled the demands from Activision Blizzard employees regarding changes to how the company addresses these kinds of issues. That said, Townsend told the Financial Times that more changes are on the way. “Kotick and the Board basically gave me a blank cheque,” she said. What Townsend and Activision Blizzard do with that check remains to be seen.