There seems to be some good news in the ongoing legal battle between the state of California and Activision Blizzard. Today in a letter to company employees, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick announced that the company would be waiving worker arbitration and taking a number of steps to make their company and work environment more progressive. This is a major win for the ABetterABK movement, a group made up of Activision Blizzard employees and their supporters who have been working to get the company to meet several demands they have for a better workplace.
As you may recall, it came to light earlier this year that California’s DFEH (Dept. of Fair Equity and Housing) had been building a case against Activision Blizzard for nearly two years. The case stated that there was a “frat boy” culture that permeated just about every corner of the company making for a hostile work environment for a number of employees.
In the letter issued by Kotick, he admits that there is a lot of work to be done and lays out five steps being taken to improve their work culture. These steps are:
- We are launching a new zero-tolerance harassment policy company-wide – In the past, when we discovered and substantiated harassment, we terminated some employees and provided verbal or written warnings or different disciplinary actions to others. In retrospect, to achieve our goals for workplace excellence, this approach is no longer adequate. We need tougher rules and consistent monitoring across the entire company to make sure reports are being handled correctly and discipline is appropriate and swift. As a result, we are implementing a zero-tolerance policy across Activision Blizzard that will be applied consistently. Our goal is to have the strictest harassment and non-retaliation policies of any employer, and we will continue to examine and tighten our standards to achieve this goal everywhere we do business.
- We will increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in our workforce by 50% and will invest $250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent –Today, approximately 23% of our global employee population identifies as women or non-binary. Building on the success that King and other business units have achieved, we will seek to increase our percentage of women and non-binary professionals by approximately 50% – to more than one-third across the entire company – within the next five years and hopefully faster. Each franchise team, business unit, and functional area will be expected to have plans to help fulfill this ambition.
- Based on feedback from employees, we are waiving required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims – For any Activision Blizzard employee who chooses not to arbitrate an individual claim of sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination, or related retaliation arising in the future, the company will waive any obligation to do so.
- We will continue to increase visibility on pay equity – As described in the recent note from our President, Daniel Alegre, and our Chief Administrative Officer, Brian Bulatao, the company continues to focus on pay equity for employees. In fact, our U.S. analysis showed that women at the company on average earned slightly more than men for comparable work in 2020. To ensure transparency on our continuing commitment to pay equity, we will report these results annually.
- We will provide regular progress updates – We will be monitoring the progress of our business units, franchise teams, and functional leaders with respect to workplace initiatives and we will provide a status report quarterly. We also will be adding a dedicated focus on this vital work in our annual report to shareholders and in our annual ESG report with information on gender hiring, diversity hiring, and workplace progress.
Kotick also took a moment to apologize and made a promise to do better: “I truly wish not a single employee had had an experience at work that resulted in hurt, humiliation, or worse – and to those who were affected, I sincerely apologize. You have my commitment that we will do everything possible to honor our values and create the workplace every member of this team deserves.’ As you may recall, Kotick took a massive pay cut today and will only be getting a $62,500 salary until the company cleans things up.
The letter can be read in full over at BlizzPlanet. It’s an interesting move for a company that just tried to get the DFEH’s case thrown out of court last week to basically admit fault, but it seems like this could be a big win for Activision Blizzard’s workers. How the company will implement these rules and regulate them remains to be seen, but we have been following this story closely and will continue to do so.
Blake Morse posted a new article, Activision Blizzard has waived worker arbitration in win for ABetterABK movement
Other big news in that story: Kotick (CEO) effectively zeros out his salary:
I have asked our Board of Directors to reduce my total compensation until the Board has determined that we have achieved the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described above. Specifically, I have asked the Board to reduce my pay to the lowest amount California law will allow for people earning a salary, which this year is $62,500. To be clear, this is a reduction in my overall compensation, not just my salary. I am asking not to receive any bonuses or be granted any equity during this time.
Ehhh, still a good bit of wiggle room in that wording. Could the board put it into an escrow account and he gets it all after the smoke clears? You'd hope not, but the potential is there based on how this was worded. Also, I don't trust him.
Yeah, they could just give him a one time payment to compensate for the loss of income when it’s all over, although it’s interesting to think that they could also wait a year, fire him, and pocket his compensation.
If the board wants to do that they can do that, and I am not even sure it's fishy. But they could also take him at his word and use the money to fund whatever programs and training and recruiting needs to be done to reshape the general culture at the company. that's what they SHOULD do, because Bobby Kotick isn't gonna hurt for a single second, even if this process takes YEARS.