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Ex-Activision exec accuses publisher of discriminating against "old white guys"

A former Activision executive has sued the publisher in California state court accusing the company of age discrimination and violating the state’s whistleblower protection law, as reported by Law360.

The suit was filed earlier this week by a 57-year-old former tech executive who worked for the company from 2014 until being laid off as part of a restructuring in the Activision Blizzard’s Central Tech department last August.

The lawsuit gives several examples to establish that Activision Blizzard discriminated against him, starting with statements Bobby Kotick allegedly made at a leadership conference that the “problem” with Activision Blizzard is that “there are too many old white guys.” (The suit doesn’t say exactly when the conference was.)

It says a pair of white executives left the company shortly afterwards, saying their departures were “based, at least in part, on Kotick’s ageist remarks.”

One of those departing executives recommended the plaintiff as his replacement, the suit says, but he was passed over in favor of a younger non-white employee who then became his manager. The suit accuses that manager of creating a hostile work environment, and criticizing his work such that his merit-based base salary increase for the year was the lowest he received during his tenure at Activision.

The suit notes that a woman in his department complained to human resources about her own merit-based increase being below expectations, saying she made false and defamatory remarks about him to human resources and his manager.

The plaintiff responded by filing his own complaint with human resources, accusing the company of failing “to protect Plaintiff from the discriminatory and defamatory accusations.”

“Plaintiff asked for ‘checks and balances’ and made clear that Plaintiff ‘was the first person to sound an alarm that a larger issue might be brewing,'” according to the suit.

He demanded that the accusations be investigated independently, but the suit says ‘Plaintiff’s complaint was ignored and he was not taken seriously.”

The suit says he was laid off as part of Central Tech restructuring in August of 2023. On a team of 200, he and six other men 47 or older were cut.

“Activision placed profits over people by terminating the older, higher paid executives,” he said.

The suit notes that Activision currently has open job listings for Central Tech department roles.

The Plaintiff is asking for damages to make up for his loss of earnings, negative impact to career advancement, reputational damage, emotional distress and wrongful termination, as well as legal costs.

Activision Blizzard announced last month it was settling a discrimination lawsuit brought against it by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (now the Civil Rights Department) that originally described the company as a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”

In 2022, it also settled a suit from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that accused the publisher of discriminating against woman and pregnant employees, and retaliating against those who complained about the discrimination.

Activision Blizzard did not immediately return a request for comment, and the company declined to comment to Law360.

Update: After the publication of this article, an Activision Blizzard representative contacted to refer us to the publisher’s equal employment opportunity policy.

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