The California-based gaming company Activision Blizzard has been accused of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment once again. The latest allegations have been made by a former product manager who claims that a hostile work environment encouraged a male coworker to grope and attempt to kiss her. Attorneys representing the woman say other Activision Blizzard workers have made similar reports on at least 700 occasions. When reporters investigated allegations or rampant sexual harassment at the company in 2021, they discovered that senior executives were aware of the allegations but chose not to act.
No action taken
The former product manager claims in her sexual harassment lawsuit that Activision Blizzard did nothing when she reported her colleague’s inappropriate behavior in 2016. Her attorneys say this lack of consequences only served to encourage her harasser. The harassment continued unabated for several years, but it came to a sudden end in August 2021 when the woman made a second report during the height of Activision Blizzard’s sexual harassment scandal. This report led to a voicemail apology from the harasser. He was fired a few days later.
The woman is seeking a jury trial and compensation for her lost earnings and legal and medical fees, and the case could not come at a worse time for Activision Blizzard. Microsoft’s $68.7 billion offer to buy the gaming giant is being reviewed by government regulators, so the last thing the company needs is another employment law scandal. An Activision Blizzard representative responded to the lawsuit by affirming the company’s position on sexual harassment and pointing out that the alleged harasser has been terminated.
Ignoring workplace toxicity
Employers do themselves no favors when they ignore workplace toxicity. Valued employees lose enthusiasm or quit when intolerant or abusive behavior goes unchecked, and harassers are emboldened. This case also reveals that pretending these problems do not exist can can lead to intense media scrutiny and a fierce public backlash. Allegations of harassment or discrimination also tend to do the most damage to companies just when they are at their most vulnerable.