US National Labor Relations Board prosecutors alleged Monday that Activision Blizzard illegally threatened staff and exacted a social media policy that stymied its workers’ collective action rights, according to a government spokesperson in a report by Bloomberg. Activision Blizzard denied the allegations.
“Employees may and do talk freely about these workplace issues without retaliation, and our social media policy expressly incorporates employees’ NLRA rights,” said an Activision Blizzard spokesperson in a statement. “Our social media policy explicitly says that it ‘does not restrict employees from engaging in the communication of information protected by law, including for example, rights of employees in the United States protected by the National Labor Relations Act.'”
The NLRB didn’t respond to a request for comment.
This comes as quality assurance testers at Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard known for making Call of Duty Warzone, voted to form the first union within the company on Monday. Named The Game Workers Alliance, the union won the vote with 19 out of 22 voting in favor. Two of the ballots were challenged, according to a report from The Verge.
Activision Blizzard said it respects the right of employees to choose to form a union, but went on to say, “We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”
The Game Workers Alliance didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to a 2019 report by Kotaku, QA testers at Treyarch making Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 claimed to be underpaid, overworked and made to feel like second-class citizens. Often, these workers were contractors and didn’t receive bonuses or the same level of benefits. Testers claimed the company would neglect to turn the air conditioning on and temperatures would go past 90 degrees.
News of the union follows a tumultuous 2021 for Activision Blizzard. Last year, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the games publisher for its “frat boy” culture, one the agency called a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination.”
California’s suit was followed by one from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC suit was settled in March for $18 million, but was appealed Monday by a former employee. The employee, Jessica Gonzalez, argues that the settlement prevents workers who apply as claimants to sue the publisher in the future, which includes California’s ongoing lawsuit.
“Today’s appeal continues efforts by CWA and DFEH to interfere with and delay an $18 million settlement that benefits eligible employees,” Activision Blizzard told CNET in an emailed statement. “This is the tenth attempt.”
Another lawsuit filed earlier this year alleges the wrongful death of a female employee partly caused by sexual harassment.
Earlier this year, Microsoft said it would buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. Senators sent a letter in March raising concerns to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan about the deal, saying it’s a further consolidation by the tech industry and would undermine accountability.