A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board has determined that allegations that Activision Blizzard violated the National Labor Relations Act are “founded”. It says there is evidence that the company and its subsidiaries Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Publishing had a “general social media policy” and that Blizzard threatened employees who exercised their right to organize. The findings were first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed to Engadget.
“These allegations are false. Employees may and will speak freely about these issues in the workplace without retaliation, and our social media policy expressly includes NLRA employees’ rights,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Engadget in a statement. restricted from providing information protected by law, including, for example, employee rights in the United States protected by the National Labor Relations Act.’”
If the company does not settle the matter, the NLRB’s Los Angeles office will file a complaint. This leads to a hearing before an administrative judge of the NLRB (unless an interim settlement is reached).
While the agency cannot impose punitive measures on a defendant, it can require them to reverse sentences or policies; recover and repay dismissed workers; or post messages with promises not to break the law. A regional director of the NLRB can request a preliminary injunction from the court if the rights of employees have been violated. The agency can also file cases in federal court.
The allegations were made in September by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). It accused Activision Blizzard in an unfair employment practice filing of telling employees they can’t talk about wages, hours or benefits; enforcing “too broad social media policies” against employees who “engage in protected coordinated activities” (ie their right to organize or discuss trade unions); and threatening or harassing such employees.
The news comes the same day the votes are being counted in a Raven Software union election. Quality assurance officers from the Activision Blizzard studio, which co-organize with the CWA as the Game Workers Alliance, were given the green light by the NLRB to vote. If successful, the group of about 21 employees will form the first union at a AAA game publisher in North America, despite the company’s reported attempts to thwart their efforts.
Activision Blizzard’s employment practices came under intense scrutiny last July when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued it for promoting a “frat boy” culture where sexual harassment and discrimination were prevalent. Since then, other lawsuits have been filed against the company, including a tort lawsuit.
In the wake of the first lawsuit, Activision Blizzard employees formed an employee advocacy group called A Better ABK. They used social media to publicly organize and share their concerns and demands.
The company is the subject of a proposed $68.7 billion acquisition by Microsoft. Shareholders voted in favor of the deal last month, but regulatory approval is still required.
Update 23/5 3:10 PM ET: Added statement from Activision Blizzard.
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