Activision Blizzard, the 60 billion dollar gaming giant behind Call of Duty and Candy Crush, laid off 20 employees in an attempt to cleanse its culture over allegations of gender-based discrimination and harassment.
In a letter sent to staff on Tuesday, the company said it had also reprimanded 20 people and would expand its ethics and compliance team, which is tasked with creating a “more responsible workplace.”
In August, hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees marched in protest after management dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state of California, calling a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture” “irresponsible.” and “inaccurate”.
Bobby Kotick, chief executive, later admitted that management’s response to the allegations was “muted.” The California case is ongoing, while the Securities and Exchange Commission last month opened an investigation into the allegations of discrimination.
Frances Townsend, a former U.S. Homeland Security adviser who was appointed Activision Blizzard’s compliance officer in March, declined to name anyone who left the company as a result of disciplinary action, citing legal reasons .
However, she told the Financial Times that they included several game developers and a few supervisors, adding that none of the layoffs came from the company’s board or management team.
Citing a multi-month investigation, Townsend said Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard found misconduct in several areas of the company.
“We call it as we see it,” she said. “It doesn’t matter your rank, your job. If you have committed any kind of misconduct or if you are a leader who has tolerated a culture that is not in line with our values, we will take action. The impact on the company is not taken into account.
Townsend said she made a distinction between “patterns” of misconduct she felt warranted termination and one-off cases that she hoped she could rectify with training.
The vast majority of fouls, Townsend said, occurred offsite at gatherings involving alcohol. “But the consequences are going to affect the workplace, and so that’s why we say we have to fix this problem,” she said.
The letter to employees says the company seeks to “gain the confidence of our team that when they speak up, they will be heard,” adding that it has realized that it must act “with urgency. renewed ”.
Activision has pledged to triple its investment in training resources and announced the hiring of 19 full-time positions for its ethics and compliance team.
However, the actions taken may not be enough to allay employee concerns. Those who withdrew in August had made four demands to correct the corporate culture, including ‘company-wide’ efforts to expand diversity and inclusion, pay equity transparency between gender, the “end of compulsory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts”.
Townsend acknowledged that not all of those requests had been met, but said more changes were on the way. “Kotick and the board basically gave me a blank check,” she said.