A group of workers at Activision Blizzard, the maker of well-known video games like Call of Duty, asked the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, to step down on Tuesday, amid accusations that he did not respond to sexual harassment allegations. employees.
More than a hundred employees protested at the company’s studio in Irvine, California, on Tuesday. Many expressed their anger on Twitter using the hashtag #firebobbykotick.
Workers had staged a similar strike in July, following a lawsuit in which a California employment agency accused Activision of promoting a pervasive culture of sexual harassment against women.
A Wall Street Journal article published Tuesday morning Kotick, who has managed the game publisher since 2008, said that for years women had known about sexual harassment and assault complaints against various men at the company and had not taken action. The article said he intervened to keep an employee accused in one case. The article said some women accused Mr. Kotick of ill-treatment in and out of the workplace. Mr. Kotick denied several charges, including one of the allegations of ill-treatment against him; apologized to someone else.
As Activision’s stock price dropped 6 percent on Tuesday, Mr. Kotick issued a statement saying the Journal article “offers a misleading view on Activision Blizzard and our CEO” and is acting on reports of sexual misconduct.
He also shared a video message with employees, saying that “anyone who doubts my belief as the most welcoming and inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me.”
In the months since the lawsuit filed by California’s Fair Employment and Housing Department, Mr. Kotick has sought to make Activision look like it has turned a new leaf even as legal action piles up. include pending deal with a federal employment agency and one Investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In an earnings call this month, she hailed new zero-harassment policies and company-wide commitments to diversity. Activision also stressed that most of the alleged abuses occurred at a subsidiary, Blizzard.
“We should have done a better job of ensuring that our values were embraced company-wide,” Mr. Kotick said during the interview.
Mr. Kotick also faced tough questions from investors. This summer, Activision made the rare move to temporarily delay voting on a $155 million pay package for the CEO because the company needed more investor support, which it narrowly did.
Last month, Mr. Kotick said he had asked Activision’s board of directors to reduce its total compensation to $62,500 until the company decided it had met its diversity goals. The board of directors consists of Mr. Kotick; chairman Brian Kelly, longtime Activision employee; and eight independent members.
“The Board continues to ensure that it appropriately addresses workplace issues brought to Bobby Kotick’s attention,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “The goals we set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The board is confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”
Current and former employees said the changes made by the company were not enough.
“We’ve created our own Zero Tolerance Policy,” tweeted the ABK Workers Alliance on Tuesday, a group of employees at Activision, Blizzard and King studios fighting for change. “We will not remain silent until Bobby Kotick is replaced as CEO.”
Workers have also called for the creation of a union, which is rare in the North American gaming industry.
Despite employee pressure on Mr. Kotick, analysts said his position appears secure for now.
“It always takes a lot of time to get rid of a sitting CEO,” said Doug Creutz, a video game analyst at Cowen. “A lot of things clearly happened on Bobby’s watch that shouldn’t have happened and he’s responsible for them, but nothing seems to be pushing the board’s hand yet.”