Videogame publisher Activision illegally threatened staff, U.S. agency says

By Kanishka Singh and Daniel Wiessner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Videogame publisher Activision Blizzard Inc enforced a social media policy that conflicted with workers’ rights and illegally threatened staff in the policy’s enforcement, a U.S. government agency said on Monday.

Unless Activision settles, the Los Angeles-based regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will issue a complaint, a spokesperson of the NLRB said in a statement.

The NLRB had been looking into allegations brought to the agency last September by labor union Communications Workers of America (CWA).

The announcement came on the same day that a small group of Activision employees at a Wisconsin studio that works on the popular “Call of Duty” franchise voted to join the CWA.

The union has increasingly focused in recent years on organizing non-union workers in the tech and video game industries.

The “Call of Duty” videogame maker said on Monday the allegations were false.

“These allegations are false. Employees may and do talk freely about these workplace issues without retaliation, and our social media policy expressly incorporates employees’ NLRA rights,” a company spokesperson said.

“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 spokesperson said.

In recent months, Activision Blizzard workers have banded together to try to influence the company’s future, including staging a walkout and circulating a petition calling for the removal of Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick. Microsoft Corp announced plans to acquire Activision in January.

The company’s labor issues come as it also faces claims from a California civil rights agency of widespread discrimination against female employees. Activision has denied wrongdoing and said the agency did not thoroughly investigate workers’ discrimination complaints before suing.

Activision had faced similar claims from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which it settled in March for $18 million.

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(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington and Daniel Wiessner in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)