Activision hires Disney, Delta execs to improve culture roiled by allegations of harassment – Orange County Register


By Olga Kharif and Josh Eidelson | Bloomberg

Activision Blizzard Inc., under fire over allegations of workplace sexual harassment, is hiring executives from Walt Disney Co. and Delta Air Lines to address the company’s corporate culture.

The video-game maker hired Julie Hodges, formerly a human-resources executive at Disney, as its new chief people officer. It also hired Sandeep Dube, formerly an executive at Delta, as chief commercial officer.

A union has filed a federal complaint against the company, accusing Activision of violating labor rules. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the company in July, alleging it fostered a “frat boy” culture in which female employees were subjected to sexual harassment, pay inequality and retaliation. Employees at the company’s Blizzard gaming division in Irvine walked off the job in July to protest the company’s response to the suit.

In a July email to employees, Activision’s chief compliance officer, who served as Homeland Security Adviser to President George W. Bush, called the California agency’s claims “factually incorrect, old and out of context.” Activision has also said that the picture painted in the lawsuit “is not the Blizzard workplace of today” and that the company values diversity and strives to “foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone.”

Shares of Activision are down 16% so far this year.

Blizzard Entertainment employees and supporters protest for better working conditions in Irvine, CA, on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Related: Blizzard workers in Irvine organize on company Slack seeking pay increases

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board complaint, filed by the Communications Workers of America, accuses Activision of violating federal labor law through coercive rules, actions and statements.

“The employer has threatened employees that they cannot talk about or communicate about wages, hours and working conditions,” according to a copy of the complaint provided by CWA. The document also accuses Activision of illegally telling staff they can’t discuss ongoing investigations; threatening or disciplining employees because of their activism; deploying surveillance and interrogations targeting legally protected activism; and maintaining a social media policy that infringes on workers’ rights.

The agency’s docket shows that CWA’s complaint was filed Sept. 10. Activision didn’t reply to requests for comment Tuesday.

Complaints filed with the labor board are investigated by regional offices and, if found to have merit and not settled, can be prosecuted by the agency’s general counsel and heard by administrative law judges. The rulings can be appealed to NLRB members in Washington, D.C., and from there to federal court. The agency can require remedies such as posting of notices and reversals of policies or punishments, but has no authority to impose punitive damages.

CWA, which has increasingly focused in recent years on organizing non-union video game and tech workers, said in an emailed statement that it was “very inspired by the bravery” of Activision employees and that it filed with the labor board to ensure that violations by the company “will not go unanswered.”



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