More than 1,600 current and former staff of video game publishing company Activision Blizzard sent a sternly worded open letter Monday rebuking the company’s leadership for what they perceived to be an “abhorrent and insulting” response to a recent discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit. The suit, filed by the state of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against Activision Blizzard July 20 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges multiple instances of discrimination, inequality and harassment against women throughout Activision Blizzard’s network of companies.

The letter specifically addressed both the company’s public statement issued last week saying the DFEH’s claims in the suit were “distorted, and in many cases false,” as well as an email sent from Chief Compliance Officer Frances Townsend to Activision Blizzard employees stating the allegations were “factually incorrect, old and out of context.”

“We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry,” the employees wrote in the letter. “Categorizing the claims that have been made as ‘distorted, and in many cases false’ creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.”

Activision Blizzard had not replied to The Washington Post’s request for comment on the letter at the time of publication.

In the days since the filing of the lawsuit, a number of former Activision Blizzard employees have voiced their own experiences on Twitter or other social media platforms, echoing the allegations leveled by the DFEH in the lawsuit.

Activision Blizzard has taken aim at the lawsuit, challenging the allegations in an official statement, issued July 22, and questioning the DFEH’s investigation, saying the agency “rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court.”

A number of the company’s employees took exception to that statement, the email from Townsend and another last week from Blizzard President J. Allen Brack. Brack is cited in the suit by name, and is alleged to have directly known of two incidents of workplace toxicity and harassment. A number of Activision Blizzard employees expressed their dissatisfaction via social media last week, before the release of Monday’s formal letter to leadership.

“Following the announcement from Activision Blizzard, and in light of the internal memo circulated by Frances Townsend, a group of over 200 employees from across all of Activision-Blizzard-King [ABK] and its subsidiaries came together to take action,” wrote the employees behind the open letter in a statement sent to The Post. “We appreciate the support of our fellow co-workers, past ABK employees, and our communities during this time. Rest assured we intend to demand change, and hold our leaders and companies accountable to the values we signed onto when joining.”

In the letter, employees called for Townsend to step down as executive sponsor of the Activision-Blizzard-King (ABK) Employee Women’s Network, as well as for the company’s official statements to “recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.” The employees also called on leadership to collaborate with workers on “new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees — as well as our community — have a safe place to speak out and come forward.”

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