Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick calls company’s response to lawsuit ‘tone deaf,’ outlines changes in company-wide email

"Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf."

Image via Activision Blizzard

In a response to the alleged mistreatment of female employees and the backlash that followed, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick sent out a company-wide email in which he said the company’s response to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s lawsuit was “tone deaf.”

Within the email, Kotick also apologized for not providing “the right empathy and understanding.” Initially, the company’s internal and external responses to the lawsuit were centered around denying the claims, saying they were “false and distorted.” As a result, a reported 1,000 current and former employees of Activision Blizzard signed a letter denouncing the company and how it has handled the situation. Employees are also reportedly set to walk out and strike on Wednesday, July 28 outside Blizzard’s headquarters in Irvine, California.

Kotick said he asked law firm WilmerHale to “conduct a review of [its] policies and procedures to ensure that [it does] have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace.” This team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, a member of the firm’s management team and who was recently the director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s division of enforcement.

The company will also be taking these following actions, according to Kotick’s email:

  • Employee Support: Activision Blizzard will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen the company’s capabilities in this area, it is adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team.
  • Listening Sessions: Activision Blizzard will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for employees to speak out and share areas for improvement.
  • Personnel Changes: Activision Blizzard is immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of its processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.
  • Hiring Practices: Earlier this year, Kotick sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. Activision Blizzard will be adding compliance resources to ensure that its hiring managers are adhering to this directive.
  • In-game Changes: Activision Blizzard has heard the input from employee and player communities that some in-game content is inappropriate, and are removing that content.

Last week, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, alleging the company fosters a “frat boy” work atmosphere where female employees are mocked, sexually harassed, and subjected to unequal pay. The lawsuit followed a two-year investigation into the company.

The employees have yet to respond to the email.