Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick asks board to cut pay, cut bonuses amid lawsuits
Just days after a judge dismissed Activision Blizzard’s motion to stay the trial in California, the video game company announced a series of changes it is making to help improve its culture company amid ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits. Additionally, CEO Bobby Kotick said he’s asking the board to cut his salary to the lowest possible level for someone in California and remove all of their bonuses. On top of that, Activision Blizzard is waiving compulsory arbitration, which the workers’ advocacy group had called for.
In a press release, Kotick acknowledged Activision Blizzard’s shortcomings, saying, “Guardrails were not in place everywhere to ensure our values were upheld.”
“In some cases, people did not always feel comfortable reporting their concerns, or their concerns were not always addressed promptly or properly. People were deeply disappointed and for that I am so sorry.” , did he declare. “Being welcoming and inclusive, in the context of our workplace, is crystal clear. We will continue to passionately debate ideas, exercise healthy skepticism where appropriate, and demand excellence and thoroughness in all that we do, but we will always treat each other with dignity and respect. And whatever the differences, voices will be heard, perspectives welcomed and contributions valued. “
Kotick said Activision Blizzard had “tripled” its investment in anti-harassment and discrimination training, and made “significant organizational changes.” Kotick also said the company had “significantly increased its resources to report and carefully investigate inappropriate behavior.”
Still, Kotick said Activision Blizzard has “a lot more to do if we are to be the company others emulate.”
There are five specific changes Activision Blizzard seeks to implement to improve its corporate culture. These include a new zero tolerance policy against harassment and a drive to increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in the workforce by 50%. (The figure is now around 23%). Additionally, Activision Blizzard is waiving mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment and discrimination complaints – this decision was informed by employee feedback, Kotick said. “For any Activision Blizzard employee who chooses not to arbitrate an individual complaint for sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination or related retaliation occurring in the future, the company will waive any obligation to do so,” said Kotick.
Kotick also pledged that Activision Blizzard “will increase pay equity visibility” by releasing new findings each year. For 2020 in the United States, women at Activision Blizzard were earning “a little more” than men for comparable work, Kotick said. And fifth, Kotick is committed to Activision “providing regular progress updates” so that everyone can monitor the company’s progress against their goals.
All five changes are listed in their entirety below, as written by Kotick.
- We are launching a new company-wide zero tolerance harassment policy – In the past, when we discovered and justified harassment, we fired some employees and provided verbal or written warnings or various disciplinary actions to others. In retrospect, to achieve our goals of excellence in the workplace, this approach is no longer adequate. We need tighter rules and consistent oversight across the company to make sure reports are handled properly and discipline is appropriate and timely.
As a result, we are implementing a zero tolerance policy in Activision Blizzard which will be applied consistently. Our goal is to have the strictest harassment and non-retaliation policies of any employer, and we will continue to review and tighten our standards to achieve this goal wherever we do business.
Any Activision Blizzard employee who, through our new investigative processes and resources, retaliates against anyone who files a compliance complaint will be immediately terminated.
In many other cases of workplace misconduct, we will no longer rely on written warnings: termination will be the result, including in most cases of harassment based on a legally protected category.
Future employment contracts and equity awards will be clear: termination for these reasons will result in the immediate loss of future compensation.
We also want to make sure that employees who file reports are encouraged, protected and heard. For all reports of harassment and retaliation, we will investigate the allegation and determine whether Activision Blizzard personnel who received the report of such behavior have taken appropriate steps to protect the integrity of our compliance processes. .
There may be places in the world where local law may restrict some of these measures. In these cases, we will apply the highest allowable standards and the strictest discipline possible.
- We will increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in our workforce by 50% and invest $ 250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. Today, around 23% of our global employee population identifies as female or non-binary. Building on the success of King and other business units, we will look to increase our percentage of women and non-binary professionals from around 50% – to over a third across the company – over the years. next five years and hopefully faster. Every franchise team, business unit and functional area will need to have plans to help achieve this ambition.
When it comes to diversity, while we outperform our peers with 30% of our U.S. workforce coming from diverse or underrepresented communities, expanding that progress will continue to be an important goal for me as well as for the management of the company, the business unit and the franchise. .
To continue this commitment, we will invest an additional $ 250 million over the next 10 years in initiatives that help expand gaming and tech opportunities for under-represented communities. This engagement includes inspiring diverse talents to pursue career opportunities in the game through an ABK Academy that includes partnerships with colleges and technical schools serving under-represented communities, mentorships for participants, and a training program. rotational learning that leads to game development jobs, similar to the programs we started with the United Negro College Fund and Management Leadership for Tomorrow. We will also provide learning, development and graduate degree opportunities to current employees to increase the number of women and people from under-represented communities in leadership positions across the company. company and in our industry.
Over the next few months, Brian Bulatao, Julie Hodges and I will share details on how we are operationalizing these goals and implementing and measuring this expanded investment.
- Based on employee feedback, we waive the required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination complaints – For any Activision Blizzard employee who chooses not to arbitrate an individual complaint for sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination, or related retaliation arising from the future, the company has any obligation to do so.
- We will continue to increase visibility on pay equity – As outlined in the recent note from our President, Daniel Alegre, and Executive Director, Brian Bulatao, the company continues to focus on pay equity for employees. employees. In fact, our analysis in the United States showed that women in the company were earning on average slightly more than men for comparable work in 2020. To ensure transparency of our continued commitment to pay equity, we will post these results every year.
- We will provide regular progress updates – We will monitor the progress of our business units, franchise teams and functional leaders with respect to workplace initiatives and provide a quarterly status report. We will also highlight this essential work in our Annual Report to Shareholders and in our Annual ESG Report with information on Gender Hiring, Diversity Hiring and Workplace Progress.
Regarding Kotick’s salary, he said he asked the board of directors to reduce his salary to $ 62,500, which is the lowest amount allowed by California law for people earning a salary. . Kotick bonuses are also reduced. “To be clear, this is a reduction in my overall compensation, not just my salary. I am asking not to receive any bonus or equity during this period,” he said.
Kotick said his salary would only revert to where it was before if and when the company meets its “gender-related transformation goals and other commitments” as determined by the board of directors.
“I really wish no employee had a work experience that resulted in injury, humiliation or worse – and to those affected, I sincerely apologize. You have my commitment that we will make. everything we can to honor our values and create the workplace that every member of this team deserves, ”said Kotick.
“I am grateful for the importance people place on this company and appreciate that many employees past and present have expressed their thoughts, concerns, complaints and suggestions. Your experiences, so courageously shared, serve as a reason and a reminder as to why it is so important for us to do better. And we will. “
For more, check out the timeline of Activision Blizzard’s sexual harassment and discrimination case, which runs through all of the key developments in the story.