Following a damning report from The Wall Street Journal which alleged Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick knew about sexual harassment happening in the company and worked to hide it, employees have staged a walkout and demanded the CEO resign.
‘We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for third-party review by an employee-chosen source,’ the ABK Workers Alliance announced on Twitter. ‘We are staging a Walkout today. We welcome you to join us.’
The ABK Workers Alliance have been a vocal advocacy group within the company, attempting to drive positive change in the wake of numerous allegations of harassment and mistreatment of women.
While these reports have been around for some time, it was fresh allegations against Kotick himself that sparked the new push for change. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kotick is alleged to have been a direct part of the ‘frat culture’ of Activison Blizzard.
The report detailed an alleged incident between Kotick and an assistant in 2006, in which the CEO is said to have sent voicemails claiming he would kill her. The matter was reportedly settled out of court, with Kotick expressing deep regret and apologies.
A similar incident reportedly took place in 2007, with Kotick being accused of firing a flight attendant on his private jet and threatening to ‘destroy’ her after she reported being sexually harassed. This incident was settled out of court.
The Wall Street Journal report also alleges further harassment within the company, with several previously-unknown cases coming to light. According to the WSJ, employee Javier Panameno was accused of raping and sexually assaulting women while at Activision Blizzard — but despite formal reports being filed, it’s alleged he was only fired when external lawyers became involved.
The incident was reportedly not shared with the company’s Board, with Kotick himself being accused of sweeping it under the rug. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently investigating this alleged misconduct.
Kotick also reportedly vetoed the firing of Dan Bunting, the former co-head of Treyarch, following allegations of sexual harassment after a night of drinking.
As for more recent incidents, the Wall Street Journal report also alleges the resignation of Activision Blizzard’s first female studio co-head, Jen Oneal, came about as she felt she was ‘tokenised, marginalised, and discriminated’ during her time with the company. According to reports, she was also paid less than her male counterpart, Mike Ybarra.
While Activision Blizzard has released a statement denying many of the claims made in the report, saying it is a ‘misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO’, employees are still calling for change.
Recently, the company implement a new ‘zero tolerance’ policy for harassment, with Kotick pledging to cut his salary until real, lasting change could take effect. How this will come into play following fresh upheaval is currently unknown.