Now that more and more dust is settling from the Microsoft acquisition and Kotick is finally gone, we may hear more from the inside of Activision Blizzard. What skeletons are actually in those closets? Where’s the Pitfall dude? Were there too many ‘old white guys’?
Well, according to a lawsuit filed on January 2, maybe there was.
Ageism lawsuit against Activision Blizzard
James Reid Venable, a former executive at Activision Blizzard, has decided to sue his former employer for age discrimination. At 57 years old, he was the director of business operations until he was forced out due to “job elimination and restructuring needs”. This is the reason Venable said was given for the layoffs although he believes it to be untrue. He uses job postings for the department as proof of that.
Venable believes that Activision Blizzard “retaliated and discriminated” against him after speaking up about comments made about “old white guys” at the company.
According to the filing, Venable started his career at Activision Blizzard in 2014. Because he was a “high performing executive”, he was promoted many times. This got him to the top of the operations team.
Venable then accuses Bobby Kotick, the former CEO of Activision Blizzard, of saying that the company has “too many old white guys”. This was said while at a leadership retreat. After the retreat, two older white men left “at least in part” to Kotick’s statement.
Shortly after, Activision Blizzard promotes Jonathan Lee, a younger “non-white employee”. Lee is currently the COO of its central technology division.
Plaintiff is informed and believes and herein alleges that the decision to promote the substantially younger, less experienced employee over Plaintiff was based on the campaign to get rid of ‘old white guys’ within Activision.”
excerpt from lawsuit
After the promotion, Venable started to receive poor performance reviews. This also led to the lowest merit increase since being at Activision Blizzard. He was also awarded fewer stock options than those who didn’t look like him.
However, what really did it for him was being called out for his “white male privilege” in an email that was sent to HR and his boss. He complained that HR didn’t protect him from discrimination. He was ultimately let go on August 21 during a company restructuring. Venable believes this was retaliation because seven other “older, male employees” were also let go.
Discrimination or complaining?
Activision Blizzard has been dealing with a ton of discrimination cases. Most of these cases had more to do with gender discrimination and sexual harassment. This is not one of those cases.
What this actually looks like is a man who was comfortably sitting in a position who got the axe when people started to notice he wasn’t actively contributing to the company. Most companies then, now, and probably in the future will have to deal with “old white guys” in positions of power. There are more of them than anyone else in those positions. However, those times are slowly changing. People that look different will assume power. Hopefully, with that shift will come some sort of meritocracy. You’ll actually have to work again.
In the end, it just seems odd. These “old white guys” will tell every other marginalized community that they just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. One day they’ll get those corner offices. You just gotta work hard.
But when it comes time for marginalized communities getting the recognition they deserve, then it becomes persecution of the “old white guys”.