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Activision Blizzard CEO apologizes for 'tone deaf' response to equal pay, harassment claims; workers stage walkout

·3 min read

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick apologized for what he called the video game publisher's "tone deaf" response to allegations of violating equal pay laws and sexual harassment.

According to a copy of the note sent to employees Tuesday and emailed to USA TODAY, Kotick said the company hired a law firm to investigate its policies and procedures to ensure Activision Blizzard promotes a "respectful and inclusive" workplace.

"Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf," Kotick said. "It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding."

Last week, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over violations of equal pay laws and fostering a "sexist culture" within the workplace.

Leaders within the company responded soon after in emails to employees, according to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier, citing copies of the messages. Among them was a statement from executive Frances Townsend, calling the lawsuit "meritless."

Employees of the video game company Activision Blizzard hold a walkout and protest rally to denounce the company's response to a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit and to call for changes in conditions for women and other marginalized groups, in Los Angeles on July 28, 2021.
Employees of the video game company Activision Blizzard hold a walkout and protest rally to denounce the company's response to a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit and to call for changes in conditions for women and other marginalized groups, in Los Angeles on July 28, 2021.

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The responses prompted an open letter from the company's employees backing the lawsuit. "To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership," read the letter published by multiple outlets.

On Wednesday, employees walked out to protest the company's work environment and have encouraged support by sharing posts on social media with the hashtag #ActiBlizzWalkout.

Employees of the video game company, Activision Blizzard, hold a walkout and protest rally to denounce the company's response to a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit and to call for changes in conditions for women and other marginalized groups, in Los Angeles on July 28, 2021.
Employees of the video game company, Activision Blizzard, hold a walkout and protest rally to denounce the company's response to a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit and to call for changes in conditions for women and other marginalized groups, in Los Angeles on July 28, 2021.

"I've been an Activision employee for the past 11 years. Today I will take part in the #ActiBlizzWalkout with many of my colleagues. I support and believe every single one of you, every voice matters," wrote Karine Windy, a senior associate producer at Call of Duty studio Treyarch, in a post on Twitter.

Kotick said Activision Blizzard will take immediate action, including personnel changes, updates in hiring practices to promote a more diverse selection of candidates and listening sessions for employees to share ideas of how to improve the company's culture.

"We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration," Kotick said.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick apologizes in wake of lawsuit

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