- Embattled video game publisher Activision Blizzard will waive mandatory arbitration agreements for employees' sexual harassment and discrimination claims, CEO Bobby Kotick said in an Oct. 28 statement.
- The change was made based on feedback from the company's employees, Kotick said. Activision Blizzard also announced a "zero-tolerance harassment policy" under which any employee found to have retaliated against anyone for making a compliance complaint "will be terminated immediately."
- Kotick said he had asked Activision Blizzard's board to reduce his pay to $62,500 per year, the lowest amount an employee earning a salary may earn under California law, and requested that he not receive any bonuses or equity grants "during this time." He added that the company would report pay equity survey results annually.
It has been more than three months since the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision Blizzard over a series of workplace harassment and discrimination claims.
In September, the company paid $18 million as part of a consent decree with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over similar allegations, though DFEH has filed a motion to intervene in that case. Earlier that month, Activision Blizzard said it was complying with a subpoena issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Additionally, Activision Blizzard said it would, as part of the consent decree, upgrade its policies, practices and training as well as implement an "expedited performance review system with a new equal opportunity focus." It hired a new chief people officer. But by Kotick's own admission, the company still has a long way to go in recovering from its legal fallout.
"We have a lot more to do if we are to be the company that others emulate," he said in the statement.
The decision to end forced arbitration in cases of sex harassment and discrimination mirrors previous commitments made by several large companies both inside and outside of the technology sector. Similar to Activision Blizzard, Google in 2019 faced an employee walkout in which workers demanded that the company change its policies regarding mandatory arbitration. Google ended the practice for some categories of employees months later.
In a series of tweets responding to the Activision Blizzard announcement, worker group ABK Workers Alliance called the mandatory arbitration decision a "huge win" but continued to call on the company to hire a third party to conduct an internal investigation of its policies and procedures. The group has criticized Activision Blizzard for choosing law firm WilmerHale to conduct an investigation.
Today was a huge win for ABK Worker's Alliance! Forced arbitration has been removed for cases that deal in sexual harassment and discrimination. The company announced they will raise the number of women and non-binary people it employs by 50% ???? https://t.co/N6ZGkUIsiA— ABetterABK ???? ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) October 28, 2021
"This is what happens when we work together to create a better future for game devs in our company," ABK Workers Alliance said. "Together we will continue to push for other changes that need to be made so that we can make a better ABK."