Adding to the pile of similar such lawsuits already facing their legal team, Activision Blizzard has been hit with yet another sexual misconduct complaint, this time from a female employee who alleges that, among other things, she was subjected to “sexual harassment, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Filed on March 23rd with the Superior Court of Los Angeles on behalf of a Jane Doe currently employed with the company and originally hired as an executive assistant, the latest lawsuit asserts that “immediately” after the employee’s hiring,” Activision Blizzard subjected her to “harassment and gender discrimination,” beginning with an “initiation lunch’ whereat “leadership pressured Ms. Doe to drink many shots of tequila.”
“And at this lunch, Defendant [former IT director Mark] Skorupa forced his hand on Ms. Doe’s lap,” the suit adds. “After lunch, they all headed to another place for more drinks and leadership pressured Ms. Doe to drink even more.”
“On the car ride back to the office, leadership told Ms. Doe that, as part of the initiation, she needed to share an embarrassing secret to everyone. She complied and it made her extremely uncomfortable,” reads the complaint.
Following this incident, Doe claims she was subjected to further occurrences of sexual harassment, including receiving an email from fellow female executive assistant Sonal Patel featuring a reference to “hooks and blow,” being coerced into participating in the previously alleged ‘cube crawls’ undertaken seemingly exclusively to harass women, and engaging in various rounds of the games found within the all-ages Jackbox Party Pack collections.
“All the men present ensured that their answers were mostly sexual,” said the Doe. “At the start of one of the games, Defendant Skorupa or Defendant [former CIO Derek] Ingalls told Ms. Doe, ‘let’s see how well you’ll fit in with the group.’ Ms. Doe understood that they were testing her to see if she could be as sexually crude as the men.”
In another example provided by Doe, the employee stated that during BlizzCon 2017, she “was instructed to meet the leadership group in the hotel bar after her shift was over,” at which point “Defendant Patel and Defendant Skorupa pressured Ms. Doe to drink with the team, causing Ms. Doe to become intoxicated.”
“Defendant SKORUPA gave Ms. Doe the key to his hotel room and said that he was not using it that night,” she continued. “Ms. Doe later left the bar and went to Defendant Skorupa’s vacant hotel room to sleep. Since Blizzard pressured her to drink and caused her intoxication, Ms. Doe does not remember much else from that night other than waking up in the middle of the night in a state of shock as she was completely naked (something very unusual for her) and then driving home.”
Further, alongside being forced to endure this supposed work environment, Doe says she was also subjected to unwanted sexual advances and contact from her co-workers, including Patel, who “told Ms. Doe that she and her boyfriend are polyamorous and that they had a lot of parties if Ms. Doe ever wanted to join” – an invitation which Doe ultimately declined.
Doe also named Skorupa as one of her main harassers, recalling numerous episodes of unwanted sexual attention from her former co-worker, such as “commenting on the way that she dresses and how she physically looks,” “repeatedly [putting] his arm around Ms. Doe and repeatedly [linking] arms with Ms. Doe to enable him to rub his arm on the side of her breast,” and even telling her during a drive in his convertible “that her breasts were going to get a nice tan.”
On the same day as that drive, Doe maintains that while meeting her co-workers at a dinner party, Skorupa informed her that former Blizzard CTO Ben Kilgore – himself later fired in 2018 following multiple allegations of sexual harassment – wanted to “‘come take care of you after [your] Lasik [surgery].’”
“Defendant Kilgore later came up behind her, put his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly from behind,” the suit notes. “When she turned around, he handed her his phone number and said to call him if she needed to be ‘taken care of.’”
After being removed in 2018 from her role as Skorupa’s assistant in favor of a new hire with close ties to Blizzard leadership, Doe says she threatened “to go to Activision Blizzard HR with complaints of sexual harassment,” which in turn made her an open target for retaliation.
According to Doe, such reprisals included “forcing her to move [from an office] to a cubicle to make room for a new director” who was physically in the building less often than she was, regular reassignments from her duties, and removal from “all leadership meetings that she previously attended.”
Eventually, says Doe, she formally “complained in writing to [then-]Blizzard President J. Allen Brack about the sexual harassment and retaliation,” which led the company to “offer her the Story & Franchise department position that it previously denied to her in order to shut her up.”
However, she accused that not only did her new “manager often set her up to fail,” but that after complaining about this apparent subterfuge, she “received her first below-average review after receiving positive reviews in 2018 and 2019.”
“Ms. Doe believes this was in retaliation for her prior sexual harassment complaints,” she adds in her suit. “To this day, Activision Blizzard has refused to promote Ms. Doe despite her exemplary work.”
Further, Doe claims, “Activision Blizzard also sent a preservation of evidence letter to some of its employees on January 10, 2022, falsely claiming that Ms. Doe was terminated. Activision Blizzard’s relentless efforts to push her out continued on February 1, 2022, when it hired two new temporary employees to perform the exact duties Ms. Doe performed.”
Ultimately, Doe is seeking relief in the form of “general damages,” “past and future medical expenses, “past and future lost earnings,” “impairment of earning capacity,” (i.e. compensation to make up for shutting the plaintiff out of employment opportunities),” and “prejudgment and post-judgment interest.”
Additionally, the employee is requesting that the court issue several orders requiring Activision Blizzard to “waive all arbitration of sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims pursuant to CEO Bobby Kotick’s public statement on October 28, 2021 [in which he admitted “the company’s failure to protect its many sexual harassment victims”],“implement a rotating Human Resources department to prevent conflicts of interest with management,” retain an outside, truly neutral investigation firm or agency to impartially investigate all pending and future sexual harassment complaint,” and “to implement an investigation policy requiring its Human Resources to interview all individual witnesses provided by the complaining employee.”
“To implement an anti-retaliation policy to specifically prohibit the “managing out strategy” that strips employees of their essential job duties,” the list of desired orders continues. “[To prohibit] Defendant Skorupa from any physical, virtual or telephonic contact with Plaintiff indefinitely,” “to amend Plaintiff’s 2020 performance review to accurately reflect a “Successful” rating, and to retroactively compensate her based [on this rating]”, “to promote Plaintiff to Executive Assistant and to increase Plaintiff’s annual pay, equity and profit sharing commensurate with the Executive Assistant position,” and finally, “to terminate CEO Kotick’s employment for cause.”
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