Blizzard Entertainment president departs after accusations of fostering a ‘frat boy’ culture

(IRVINE, Calif.) — The president of Blizzard Entertainment is departing the company after accusations that a “frat boy” workplace culture fostered gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

In a letter to staff posted on its website, the chief operating officer of Blizzard’s parent company, Activision Blizzard, announced Tuesday that J. Allen Brack was leaving “to pursue new opportunities.”

COO Daniel Alegre also said that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed as the new “co-leaders of Blizzard.”

The leadership shakeup at the maker of popular video games including “Overwatch” and “World of Warcraft” comes after a lawsuit that alleges rampant discrimination and sexual harassment at the company.

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed the suit late last month, which accuses the company of fostering a sexist culture and paying women less than men for similar work. Moreover, it states that women were promoted at slower rates than men and fired or forced to quit at higher frequencies than men.

The agency also said that women were subject to constant sexual harassment and the company failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the conduct even when it was known.

The complaint states the company “fostered a pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace culture” that is “a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.” It also mentioned a “particularly tragic example,” stating that “a female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor.”

“Numerous complaints” were made to human resources, according to the lawsuit, but the company did not address them and female employees who went to HR were subject to retaliation.

Blizzard Entertainment did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for further comment on the allegations raised in the lawsuit, but Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick sent a letter to staff shortly after it was filed promising sweeping workplace reforms and announcing the law firm WilmerHale had been tapped to conduct a review of policies and procedures.

His full letter was shared with investors on the company’s website.

“This has been a difficult and upsetting week,” Kotick said in the July 27 letter to employees. “I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage.”

In a statement to IGN, the company said the “DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”

Kotick promised the company was taking “swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment.”

“There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind,” Kotick wrote. “We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration.”

He also acknowledged that initial responses to concerns “were, quite frankly, tone deaf.” He encouraged employees to contact WilmerHale’s team to voice any concerns.

The overhaul at the video game giant comes years after much of the entertainment sector was hit with a #MeToo revolution that toppled prominent male executives across multiple industries.

Some critics have said the tech sector’s gender equity efforts still lag behind.

Kevin Kish, the director of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, called for all employers to ensure equal pay and take steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in a statement announcing the Blizzard suit.

“This is especially important for employers in male-dominated industries, such as technology and gaming,” Kish added.
 

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