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Activision fires more employees in sexual harassment probe

According to people familiar with the matter, Activision Blizzard Inc. has dismissed or pushed out more than three dozen employees and reprimanded nearly 40 others since July as part of attempts to handle complaints of sexual harassment and other misconduct at the gaming company.

Courtesy: Mint

Activision planned to issue a summary of those personnel actions before the holidays, but Chief Executive Bobby Kotick withheld it, citing the risk of making the company’s workplace troubles appear worse than they really are, according to people familiar with the situation.

Activision’s actions come after years of pressure from shareholders, employees, and business partners for the company to be more accountable in its handling of misconduct allegations. Since July, when a California state agency launched a lawsuit against the firm over harassment charges, Activision has received approximately 700 reports of employee concern about misconduct and other issues—in some cases separate reports about the same incidents—according to the just finished summary.

Helaine Klasky, an Activision representative, revealed that 37 people have “exited” and 44 have been reprimanded as a result of the probe. She contested the figure of 700. She added in a statement that employee comments included claims made on social media, and that the issues raised varied from “a tiny number” of potentially severe accusations, which the business has investigated. “The statement involving Mr. Kotick is false,” she said, adding that “our priority is ensuring we have reliable data and analysis to provide.”

The company is situated in Santa Monica, California. Activision, the maker of popular game franchises such as Candy Crush and World of Warcraft, has been under increased scrutiny since a Wall Street Journal investigative article in November revealed that Mr. Kotick, the company’s CEO for more than three decades, failed to inform the board of sexual misconduct allegations against managers across the company that he was aware of, including rape. The piece, which cited interviews and internal papers, also highlighted misconduct charges against Mr. Kotick, including a complaint from an assistant in 2006 that he threatened to kill her in a voice mail.

Activision claims that the Journal’s coverage of the corporation and its CEO was inaccurate. Mr. Kotick has stated that he was open and honest with his board, which published a statement in his support. Mr. Kotick would not have been told of every accusation of wrongdoing, according to an Activision representative, and Mr. Kotick regrets the alleged incident with his assistant. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which filed the case against Activision in Los Angeles Superior Court in July, are both investigating the company’s culture and handling of harassment allegations. The corporation has denied the claims made by the California agency and stated that it is cooperating with the SEC.

According to the people, Activision’s data shows it has analyzed more than 90% of the approximately 700 employee reports it has acquired thus far. Since the California agency’s July complaint, Activision has received more than 500 accusations of workplace misconduct and other difficulties, according to a November article in the Journal, a statistic Ms. Klasky contested in her Friday statement.

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