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NLRB says Activision Blizzard illegally surveilled employees during a walkout

It found merit in the unfair labor practice charges filed by the Communications Workers of America.

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Activision Blizzard is facing yet another complaint by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The labor agency has “found merit with several elements of the unfair labor practice charges filed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA)” on behalf of the company’s workers, the union has told Engadget. This particular case pertains to the CWA’s accusations that the game developer illegally surveilled workers when they walked out in July last year to protest the lack of gender equality in the company, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as well as Activision Blizzard’s alleged union-busting practices.

The NLRB decided after an investigation that the company broke labor laws by using managers and security staff to monitor workers during the walkout. In addition, the labor board found merit in the CWA’s accusation that the developer threatened to cut off workers’ access to an internal chatroom where they discussed their pay, hours and overall working conditions. As IGN notes, though, NLRB has dismissed one charge regarding the company cutting off people’s chat access to an all-hands meeting. The publication says Activision Blizzard‘s chief administrative officer Brian Bulatao has informed workers that chat was shut down for future all-hands because that particular meeting turned toxic. Attendees used it as a chance to “disparage the work of the Diablo Immoral team and others,” he explained.

An NLRB spokesperson told Reuters that it will move forward and prosecute Blizzard if the company doesn’t settle. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Engadget:

”We take protecting our people from toxic workplace behavior very seriously. We appreciate that the NLRB has withdrawn one of these allegations, and we’re confident the steps we took to protect our people from a toxic workplace were the right ones. CWA wants us to accept their other false claims, but we strongly believe employees shouldn’t have to be subjected to insults and put downs for their hard work – especially on company communication platforms.”

The company’s labor practices were thrust into the spotlight after California filed a lawsuit against it in 2021 for fostering a “frat boy” workplace. After a two-year investigation, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing had determined that the developer discriminated against female employees. The company also faced a federal sexual harassment lawsuit from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). When it settled with the EEOC last year, it agreed to submit to audits, provide anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training and provide workers with a 24/7 hotline where they can submit anonymous complaints.

To note, the company is also facing another NLRB complaint, accusing it of violating labor laws by implementing an overbroad social media policy that prevented workers from talking about their working conditions and threatening employees who were exercising their right to join a union. Activision Blizzard told Engadget that those allegations were “false.”

Update 04/03/23 11AM ET: Added a statement from Activision Blizzard and information about the EEOC’s lawsuit.