Activision-Blizzard offers (some) hard numbers on its harassment and discrimination problem


Within the Variety puff piece on Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick earlier this week, Kotick insisted that the volumes of harassment accusations against the company were fake and blamed everyone from the mainstream media to the ol’ canard of outside labor organizers for “mischaracterizations.” He vowed that when Activision-Blizzard’s transparency report was released, it would vindicate his crowing.

Well, whether it does that is going to depend on your view of taking the word of the fox guarding the henhouse – and also whether a report focused chiefly on 2022, after the wave of firings and lawsuits that presumably put folks on their best behavior, accurately represents the last decade of complaints that have surfaced thanks to brave employees.

But in any case, it’s here now, and most of it was already public information, like the notes on Kotick’s compensation, female and non-binary worker percentage goals, and the end of forced arbitration on harassment cases, as the company has already released diversity, equity, and inclusion reports for the last year.

The most interesting data come from the harassment, discrimination, and retaliation report chart. Thanks to that, we know that the full company had 20.8K total workers over the course of the year, a full quarter of whom were flagged as “contingent,” and the company claims it saw 116 harassment/discrimination investigated cases in 2022, not counting cases originating with testers, esports, and vendors. ABK says it was able to substantiate 31 of those cases. Outside of the chart, ABK says it investigated 87% of complaints, meaning it didn’t look into 17 or so more, either because the workers had left or were unable to be identified. (Of course, we don’t know how many victims were too afraid or too cynical to report at all under the circumstances.) Finally, the company includes a chart going back to 2017 on gender-specific harassment and on the “corrective actions” the company took against the offenders.

The EEOC, ABK seems to acknowledge, found more complaints from those years, owing to what ABK characterizes as “the extensive efforts undertaken by the EEOC to stimulate claims from all possible claimants, the time period covered, and other factors, [and] the number of eligible claimants identified by the EEOC[.]” (ABK is reporting all of this in a confusing way, publishing the actual victim numbers as an annual rate.)

ABK further notes that following its employee survey, “71.1% of employees responded that they were excited to stay with the Company for the next year,” but that implies nearly a third of the company either isn’t happy or wasn’t willing to answer the question, which’d be understandable given the unionbusting culture and the haphazard and retaliatory way people are apparently being fired at ABK (or in those cases, Blizzard specifically). We also must point out that we’ve now seen many rounds of layoffs at the company and a whole studio (again, Blizzard) being told by their studio president to just quit if they’re unhappy, which allows ABK to count the people who weren’t upset enough to quit as a win. (Hey, this is what Blizzard does with the WoW playerbase too! Huh.)

We note here that while the report and lawsuits were focused on discrimination and harassment incidents that go back a decade, the public abuses the company has been confronted with in the last year or two have been centered on oppressing labor in general, not just frat house culture, which of course is not addressed by this report. And while it’s certainly nice to see Activision-Blizzard has found numbers to suggest it’s cleaned up its act and give the board and investors some cover, this report certainly doesn’t undo that decade of abuses – or contradict the reporting of mainstream and gaming media that Kotick and Variety maligned.

Source: ABK
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