Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick Takes Pay Cut, Addressing Lawsuit
As Activision Blizzard employees continue a legal battle alleging years of misconduct and discrimination within the company, the higher-ups have responded with several notable firings, but CEO Bobby Kotick appears to be making larger strides in that direction upon the release of a new employee letter. Specifically, Kotick has requested to take a vastly-reduced salary as the company enacts several company-wide commitments to snuffing out harassment.
In the letter, Kotick requested the Activision Blizzard Board of Directors to enact five measures to forge a “welcoming, inclusive” environment, including a company-wide zero-tolerance harassment policy, vastly diverse hiring initiatives, pay equity transparency, and the promise of regular changes in the future. Most notably, the letter also posed the end of mandatory arbitration, a practice believed to have left numerous employee harassment claims unresolved.
The five commitments mentioned by the Activision Blizzard CEO are listed in full below.
- We are launching a new zero-tolerance harassment policy company-wide – In the past, when we discovered and substantiated harassment, we terminated some employees and provided verbal or written warnings or different disciplinary actions to others. In retrospect, to achieve our goals for workplace excellence, this approach is no longer adequate. We need tougher rules and consistent monitoring across the entire company to make sure reports are being handled correctly and discipline is appropriate and swift.
- As a result, we are implementing a zero-tolerance policy across Activision Blizzard that will be applied consistently. Our goal is to have the strictest harassment and non-retaliation policies of any employer, and we will continue to examine and tighten our standards to achieve this goal everywhere we do business.
- Any Activision Blizzard employee found through our new investigative processes and resources to have retaliated against anyone for making a compliance complaint will be terminated immediately.
In many other instances of workplace misconduct, we will no longer rely on written warnings: termination will be the outcome, including in most cases of harassment based on any legally protected category.
- Future employment contracts and equity awards will be clear: termination for these reasons will result in the immediate forfeiture of future compensation.
- We also want to ensure that employees who file reports are encouraged, protected, and heard. For all reports of harassment and retaliation, we will investigate the allegation and whether the Activision Blizzard personnel who received the report of such behavior took the appropriate steps to protect the integrity of our compliance processes.
- There may be some places around the world where local law may restrict some of these measures. In those cases, we will apply the highest permissible standards and the strongest possible discipline.
- We will increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in our workforce by 50% and will invest $250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent –Today, approximately 23% of our global employee population identifies as women or non-binary. Building on the success that King and other business units have achieved, we will seek to increase our percentage of women and non-binary professionals by approximately 50% – to more than one-third across the entire company – within the next five years and hopefully faster. Each franchise team, business unit, and functional area will be expected to have plans to help fulfill this ambition.
- With respect to diversity, while we perform better than our peers with 30% of our U.S. workforce from diverse or under-represented communities, broadening this progress will continue to be a significant focus of mine as well as company, business unit, and franchise leadership.
- To further this commitment, we’ll be investing an additional $250 million over the next 10 years in initiatives that foster expanded opportunities in gaming and technology for under-represented communities. This commitment includes inspiring diverse talent to pursue career opportunities in gaming through an ABK Academy that includes partnerships with colleges and technical schools serving under-represented communities, mentorships for participants, and a rotating apprenticeship program that leads to game development jobs, similar to the programs we began with the United Negro College Fund and Management Leadership for Tomorrow. We will also provide learning, development, and advanced degree opportunities for current employees to increase the number of women and those from under-represented communities in leadership positions across the company and in our industry.
- In the coming months, Brian Bulatao, Julie Hodges, and I will share details about how we are operationalizing these goals and implementing and measuring this expanded investment.
- Based on feedback from employees, we are waiving required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims – For any Activision Blizzard employee who chooses not to arbitrate an individual claim of sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination, or related retaliation arising in the future, the company will waive any obligation to do so.
- We will continue to increase visibility on pay equity – As described in the recent note from our President, Daniel Alegre, and our Chief Administrative Officer, Brian Bulatao, the company continues to focus on pay equity for employees. In fact, our U.S. analysis showed that women at the company on average earned slightly more than men for comparable work in 2020. To ensure transparency on our continuing commitment to pay equity, we will report these results annually.
- We will provide regular progress updates – We will be monitoring the progress of our business units, franchise teams, and functional leaders with respect to workplace initiatives and we will provide a status report quarterly. We also will be adding a dedicated focus on this vital work in our annual report to shareholders and in our annual ESG report with information on gender hiring, diversity hiring, and workplace progress.
These five measures are an undoubted response to the company-wide walkout that took place back in July. Gaining traction after the lawsuit’s poor initial response from leadership, the protest memorably generated a series of demands, many of which, such as mandatory arbitration and diverse hiring initiatives, are specifically addressed in the new Activision Blizzard letter. Going against his overpaid reputation, Bobby Kotick has declared his commitment by taking a vastly-reduced salary – minimum wage, as a matter of fact – until these changes are officially put in place.
“I have asked our Board of Directors to reduce my total compensation until the Board has determined that we have achieved the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described above,” the Activision Blizzard CEO wrote. “Specifically, I have asked the Board to reduce my pay to the lowest amount California law will allow for people earning a salary, which this year is $62,500. To be clear, this is a reduction in my overall compensation, not just my salary.”
Bobby Kotick may be reducing his wallet for the time being, but the CEO’s measures are only the latest happening regarding the ongoing Activision Blizzard saga. The company’s annual BlizzConline presentation was officially postponed for the foreseeable future, the misconduct lawsuit reached the federal level, and the Overwatch series may have lost an executive producer, but it gained a new McCree in the freshly-renamed cowboy gunslinger Cole Cassidy.
What do you think? Are you glad to see Activision Blizzard make an effort to correct things behind the scenes, or do you feel much more still needs to be done? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter and Facebook to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day!
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Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his biweekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.