Activision Blizzard is facing yet another sexual harassment lawsuit, this one filed by a former employee who alleges that her manager at the company engaged in "sexist and harassing conduct" against her for years after she was hired, threatened her job if she refused to consent to sex, and even threatened to reveal a "compromising photo" she'd shared with him years earlier—and that Activision Blizzard management was aware of the situation but did nothing to address it.
The anonymous plaintiff first met and formed a "virtual friendship" with the defendant, Miguel Vega, in 2009 or 2010—before she began working at Activision Blizzard—during which time "she regrettably sent him compromising photos of herself." That friendship ended in 2011 when the plaintiff met her future husband, but in 2016 Vega assisted her in getting a job as an independent contractor at the company, which was upgraded to a full-time position in 2020.
The lawsuit (via Vice) alleges that Vega groped the plaintiff's breasts "around a dozen times" and that he often attempted to kiss her while at work, telling her that "one day it'll happen" or "one day you'll give in" each time she rejected him. At the same time, he regularly "belittled and insulted" the plantiff during meetings, describing her as "a scrub" whose "opinions don't matter," and that she was failing to perform "a job a monkey could do."
"Whenever Ms. Doe expressed to him that his comments were deeply hurtful, he'd just dismiss her as being too sensitive and tell her that 'this is how it is when you work a corporate job, a real job'," the lawsuit states.
The suit claims that in 2017, the plaintiff filed a complaint through another manager, but Activision Blizzard took no action to stop Vega's behavior. His abusive behavior continued until he was finally fired in August 2021. A few particularly egregious examples cited in the lawsuit:
- At an Activision Blizzard office party in 2017, Mr. Vega walked Ms. Doe to a vacant part of the office away from the party and he asked her if she would give him oral sex if he were to "whip it out right here."
- When Ms. Doe expressed to Mr. Vega on several occasions that she felt underpaid, Mr. Vega often replied with a quid pro quo proposal: "Well you know what you need to do" while he pointed to his crotch.
- Mr. Vega detailed his threesome with his girlfriend and a former employee, and then said to Ms. Doe, "You’re welcome to join us next time." Ms. Doe rebuffed his sexual advance.
- Mr. Vega told Ms. Doe that he "is a very sexual person" and that he thus "needs to jack off at least twice a day."
- After Mr. Vega and Ms. Doe once walked into a meeting room, he immediately closed the door and said "now take your shirt off" and giggled. Ms. Doe rebuffed his sexual advance.
The suit goes on to allege that Vega implied to the plaintiff that he had friends in high places and would find a way to have her fired if she reported him to HR. He also "often" threatened to expose the photos she'd shared with him shortly after they first met, most recently in August 2021, when he said, "Maybe I'll blackmail you with those photos I have to get you to leave your husband so you can come stay with me." Repeated requests that Vega delete the photos were rebuffed, according to the suit.
The situation came to a head on August 23, 2021, when the plaintiff filed another complaint against Vega, through a different manager. This time, action was taken: Vega was fired one week later, on September 1, 2021.
Activision Blizzard defended the timeliness of its response in a statement sent to The Daily Mail. "We take all employee concerns seriously," a company rep said. "When the plaintiff reported her concerns to HR, we immediately opened an investigation, and Mr. Vega was terminated within 10 days. We have no tolerance for this kind of misconduct."
The lawsuit, however, accuses Activision Blizzard of failing to take "timely and appropriate corrective action" against Vega, presumably because the plaintiff's initial complaint against him, which resulted in no action being taken, was filed in 2017. It claims multiple causes of action against the company and Vega, together and individually, including sexual harassment, failure to prevent harassment, gender discrimination, sexual battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
We filed another sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision Blizzard on Friday.We currently represent 8 women with sexual harassment claims against this company. If you or someone you know was a victim of its rampant frat boy culture, please contact me.https://t.co/utVJnmvTIvOctober 11, 2022
The plaintiff is being represented by Lisa Bloom, the attorney who called for an Activision Blizzard victim compensation fund "in excess of $100 million" in December 2021. Bloom said on Twitter that she now represents eight women who have filed sexual harassment claims against Activision Blizzard.
This lawsuit is the latest in a string of allegations made against Activision Blizzard relating to workplace misconduct that began in July 2021, when California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination and sexual harassment against women in the workplace. In June 2022, an internal investigation found no evidence of widespread misconduct at the company, but earlier this month the National Labor Relations Board found the company had withheld pay raises for some of its quality assurance employees as retaliation for their unionization efforts.
Those efforts are slowly but surely having an impact: In June, Activision Blizzard ended its opposition to unionization efforts among QA workers at Raven Software and agreed to enter "good faith negotiations" with the Communications Workers of America, the parent organization of the Game Workers Alliance union. That same month, Microsoft (which is seeking to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion) reached a "ground-breaking agreement" on union negotiations with the CWA, while Activision Blizzard shareholders rejected the board of directors' recommendations and voted in favor of the creation of an annual report on the state of the company's efforts to combat abuse, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace.