So who had “Activision-Blizzard gets caught shredding possible evidence in an ongoing lawsuit” on the ol’ Blizzard scandal bingo card?
Yes, we’re back to coverage of the ongoing disaster trainwreck over at Activision-Blizzard, the subject of a lawsuit filed in July by the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing alleging that the company has fostered a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination that led to, among other things, the death of a bullied employee. As we’ve been covering this summer, Activision-Blizzard’s public response to the lawsuit was almost as bad as the suit itself, as its deputies denied wrongdoing, insulted victims, axed middle managers, disparaged whistleblowers, and hired a union-busting firm on a pretense of reviewing its policies, all while refusing to acknowledge the full breadth of employee demands.
Apparently, the company’s private response to the lawsuit was just as bad, as Axios reports that California is amending its lawsuit to add additional workers and accuse the studio of impeding its investigation by interfering with witnesses and their testimony. And yes, remarkably, the state’s investigators directly accuse Blizzard of destroying evidence: “[D]ocuments related to investigations and complaints were shredded by human resource personnel.” Blizzard workers have responded with shock.
HR destroyed the documents related to the lawsuit…which means the fine for doing so was less than the penalty for what it was. Shame on HR. Time to unionize. I will be screaming this from the hilltops now. 💙 feels so fucking gross working here right now.
— Jessica Gonzalez 💙 #ABetterABK 💙 (@BlizzJess) August 24, 2021
Activision-Blizzard issued a statement to Kotaku claiming that in fact it has “complied with every proper request” in regard to the lawsuit (and yes, the word “proper” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there). The company also listed out the “reforms” it says are underway, including “high-level personnel changes,” “revamped hiring and recruiting practices,” “greater transparency on pay equity,” and “restructured divisions to support greater accountability,” and if the company actually had done everything it claims in just a month, it should probably quit its day job making games and switch to consulting services for global corporations because that’d be a freakin’ miracle. Oh, the spokesperson also says they’ve “[e]xpanded and improved training and investigative capabilities for human resource and compliance staff” – hopefully that includes training on how to safely destroy alleged evidence because safety is very important.
“We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we do not have gender pay or promotion disparities,” Acti-Blizz insists, contrary to the allegations already presented in the original lawsuit. “Our senior leadership is increasingly diverse, with a growing number of women in key leadership roles across the company. We share DFEH’s goal of a safe, inclusive workplace that rewards employees equitably and are committed to setting an example that others can follow.”
Readers will recall that the California DFEH is the same state agency involved in a lawsuit against Riot Games for similar depravities and has multiple times accused Riot of illegally interfering with its investigation; earlier this month, it secured an order from a judge meant to protect workers from retaliation by Riot. In other words, yeah, we probably should have pre-emptively put all this on our bingo card.