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Activision Blizzard Workers Form Anti-Discrimination Committee

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A group of 12 current and former Activision Blizzard workers has created an anti-discrimination committee to fight gender-based discrimination at the company, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Activision Blizzard settled a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year, and is facing another from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Committee members say the company has plenty of progress still to make.

"My hope in joining the committee is that we don't let the fervor die down until there is meaningful, long-lasting change," said Blizzard senior motion graphic designer Emily Knief in an interview with the Post. "At the end of the day, I would like to go into work and not have to think about anything but my work. But based on everything that has been happening, even well before it broke through the headlines, it has been taking up a sizable portion of my day, having to think about the inaction of leadership."

On Tuesday, the committee submitted four pages of demands gathered from employees to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, Diversity Officer Kristen Hines (who joined the company in April), and Chief Human Resources Officer Julie Hodges. One demand: that employees be able to meet with the equal employment opportunity coordinator on diversity and inclusion initiatives, whom the EEOC settlement put in place.

Other demands include ending undocumented chats with human resources, restricting retaliation against employees who file disputes, the establishment of independent investigations of discrimination claims, the end of mandatory arbitration in discrimination cases, and improvements to private lactation rooms at Blizzard headquarters.

"We appreciate that these employees want to join with us to further build a better Activision Blizzard and continue the progress we have already made," said Activision Blizzard spokesperson Jessica Taylor in a statement. "We have, for example, already upgraded our lactation facilities, waived arbitration, hired new DEI and EEO leaders, and collaborated with employees to make our policies and processes more Trans inclusive, just to name a few issues the letter raises.”

Taylor said mandatory arbitration of individual sexual harassment and discrimination claims had been waived as of October, and that Hines would work with employee resource groups and the equal employment coordinator to address other issues raised. Taylor also said retaliation was prohibited at Activision Blizzard, and that anyone found to have retaliated would be fired immediately. Internal investigations would be handled by the Ethics team, which is separate from Human Resources.

The anti-discrimination committee's letter dedicated a full page to issues around lactation. Employees have reported a lack of available rooms; that male employees would nap in the few rooms on campus; that lactation room fridges have been used to store beer; that breastmilk has been removed from fridges and left to spoil; and that breastfeeding employees are made to clock out while doing so.

Activision Blizzard told employees in February it had installed pin code lock systems on lactation rooms, and Blizzard followed that up in March by providing a system for booking quiet rooms at its Irvine, California campus.

The committee's list of demands also includes provisions for trans rights. It calls for the establishment of an employee trans network similar to the a pre-existing network for women, support for employees before and after a transition, and for deadnames to be wiped from all software tools.

Taylor said some jurisdictions around the world require the use of legal names, but that deadnames found elsewhere could be reported to HR and changed. She also said there is already a trans group within the company's LGBT+ network.

Finally, the group calls for 12 weeks of paid parental leave, up from the 10 weeks currently offered.

"I want this committee to be the industry standard for worker protections," said committee member, former Blizzard employee and current campaign organizer at Communications Workers of America Jessica Gonzalez.

"Even though I am an Activision Blizzard alum, I am still very much involved in organizing Activision Blizzard. Developers have and will continue to benefit from my activism and I can't imagine not being there for my fellow workers, former or current."

The anti-discrimination committee's demands arrive just after testers at the Activision Blizzard-owned studio Raven Software successfully voted to unionize, beginning the process of negotiating a contract last week.

Activision Blizzard remains embroiled in multiple lawsuits tied to its reported culture of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, including one from the family of a former employee who say her experience at the company contributed to her suicide.