Activision Blizzard witheld evidence relevant to sexual harassment suit, says California DFEH

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Activision Blizzard has been shaken up quite profoundly since the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit alleging rampant sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace back in July. Since then, the studio’s employees organised a walkout in response to the suit, several members of upper management left, and the company was on the receiving end of another suit served by its own shareholders. 

Now the DFEH has updated its initial suit to accuse Activision Blizzard of “withholding and suppressing evidence”. 

Activision Blizzard tries to sweep it under the rug

The updated suit (which we read over on The Verge) contains, along with the same shocking allegations the original document held, a new section outlining various ways in which Activision Blizzard has tried to suppress evidence that might support the DFEH’s allegations. 

Internally, Activision Blizzard allegedly tried to persuade employees into signing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and waivers behind closed doors that would prevent them from speaking freely to investigators. Involved employees would have to let Activision Blizzard know they intended to reveal information to information covered by relevant NDAs. The studio was also then able to decide how much an employee was allowed to say on the matter, effectively limiting their ability to speak freely. 

Further, the studio also allegedly attempted to persuade employees into talking to WilmerHale law firm, the union-busting firm that snuffed Amazon warehouse workers’ attempt to unionise earlier this year, before talking to investigators. This would allow Activision Blizzard to claim attorney-client privilege regarding any information discussed amongst employees and attorneys, making it confidential. This allowed the company to withhold relevant information to the lawsuit, says the California DFEH. 

Activision Blizzard has said a few times now that it is committed to changing and improving its workplace culture to make itself a safer place for women to work at, but has been slated by employees, journalists and critics for its lacklustre response that seems more for show than function at the moment.

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