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New lawsuit accuses Activision Blizzard of worker intimidation and union busting

Employees have filed a new lawsuit against Activision Blizzard accusing the company of using “coercive tactics” to prevent organisational efforts to improve working conditions – amid ongoing legal action by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging sexual harassment, discrimination, and a “frat boy” work culture at Blizzard.

Following that first filing, organisational efforts by employees saw more than 2000 current and former Activision Blizzard staff sign a petition describing the company’s initial, widely lambasted response to the lawsuit as “abhorrent and insulting”, with subsequent strike action seeing more than 500 workers walk out and “hundreds” more participate virtually around the world in an effort to improve working conditions.

However, the new lawsuit, filed to the National Labor Review Board by the ABetterABK worker collective in conjunction with the Communications Workers of America, alleges Activision Blizzard has, within the last six months, “engaged in and is engaging in unfair labour practices” that violate laws laid out in the National Labor Relations Act.

“Activision Blizzard management is using coercive tactics to attempt to prevent its employees from exercising their rights to stand together and demand a more equitable, sustainable, and diverse workplace,” the CWA wrote in a press release announcing the legal action. “It is their right as workers to organise for a work environment free from abuse, discrimination and sexual harassment, and this right is protected by federal labor law.”

According to the filing, Activision Blizzard has “threatened employees that they cannot talk about or communicate about wages, hours and working conditions”, has told employees they “cannot communicate with or discuss ongoing investigations of wages, hours, and working conditions”, has “maintained an overly broad social media policy” and enforced that policy “against employees who have engaged in protected concerted activity” (ie. worker activity protected under federal law), has “treated or disciplined employees on account of protected concerted activity”, “engaged in surveillance of employees engaged in protected concerted activity”, and “engaged in interrogation of employees about protected concerted activity”.

That “protected concerted activity” has included petitioning for improved working conditions at Activision Blizzard, with ABetterABK having continued to list four demands: an end to forced arbitration in employment agreements, the adoption of inclusive recruitment and hiring practices, increases in pay transparency through compensation metrics, and an audit of ABK policies and practices to be performed by a neutral third-party.

Activision Blizzard has so far met one of those demands by commissioning a third-party audit of ABK practices and policies. However, its choice of company, WilmerHale, has come in for considerable criticism given the law firm’s reputation for union busting.

This latest legal action isn’t the first to accuse Activision Blizzard of shenanigans in its response to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s initial allegations. The DFEH recently updated its lawsuit, alleging Activision Blizzard’s HR department had shredded documents related to staff complaints and internal investigations – a claim the Call of Duty publisher described as “not true”.

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