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Activision Blizzard brings on union-busting law firm following protests

WilmerHale is tasked with reviewing policies at the company
Activision Blizzard brings on union-busting law firm following protests
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Activision Blizzard has hired law firm WilmerHale to review the HR policies at the company.

As reported by Kotaku, WilmerHale has a reputation for preventing workers from unionising - previously averting Amazon workers from forming a union, along with a history of controversial cases, such as representing Swiss banks who were accused of profiting from the Holocaust.

Activision Blizzard is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the state of California regarding a "frat boy" workplace culture that involves sexual harassment. Current and former employees signed an open letter to the company that received over 3,000 signatures earlier this week, followed by a staff walkout over the company's response to the allegations.

The company’s decision to hire WilmerHale is contrary to what staff had requested in the open letter. Workers called for an "employee selection of a third party to audit HR and other company processes" with this decision seemingly looking to ignore that request entirely.

In an internal memo, claims of misconduct have been branded as "factually incorrect" and "out of context" by Activision Blizzard chief compliance officer Frances Townsend. Townsend protested that the lawsuit is "meritless” and presents a "distorted and untrue picture" of the Call of Duty developer.

"Work culture gone boldly wrong"

More games developers and publishers have brought attention to industry-wide misconduct and discrimination against Activision employees. Ubisoft staff drafted an open letter in support of the protests, along with condemning their own management of negligence towards workplace misconduct.

"WilmerHale has extensive experience helping organisations strengthen their workplace environment by making improvements around policies and procedures related to discrimination, harassment and retaliation issues," said an Activision Blizzard representative.

Women in Games CEO Marie-Claire Isaaman subsequently issued a statement responding to the situation and ongoing claims of harassment and toxicity in the games industry.

"All of the media coverage points to a work culture gone badly wrong - harming women through discrimination and harassment - issues that are horribly familiar," said Isaaman.

"Perhaps what is genuinely new, is that the world, connected as it is now by global movements such as MeToo and Black Lives Matter, as well as the continuing global disaster of the COVID-19 pandemic, is more equipped and ready to vociferously reject such a culture."

"In addition, we are seeing high-level efforts from the UN through its sustainable goals, the EU with its strategy for weaving gender equality through all of its policies, and the UK’s presidency of the G7, integrating gender equality into all of its strategies – all demonstrate support for radical change."

Last year, French union Solidaires took Ubisoft to court over allegations of abuse and misconduct at the company.