Ex-exec sues Activision Blizzard for “old white guy” discrimination

Ex-Activision Blizzard exec’s lawsuit alleges he was laid off for being an ‘old white guy’

‘There are too many old white guys,’ Bobby Kotick said

A former Activision Blizzard executive is suing the company for age discrimination, according to lawsuit filed on Jan. 2. James Reid Venable, a 57-year-old former senior director of business operations, said Activision Blizzard “retaliated and discriminated” against him after he made a discrimination complaint to the company’s human resources department — specifically, Venable believes he was laid off for being old and white.

Activision Blizzard has come under legal fire related to discrimination before. Both suits ended in settlements, one of which was reached this past December.

However, in those instances, the suits also concerned the company’s alleged harassment-laden history. Since that initial reporting, any discrimination against older white men has never been mentioned.

The ex-exec’s suit goes on to claim the manager created a hostile work environment, in turn lowering his merit-based salary. He also alleges a female worker made “false and defamatory” remarks to HR.

Activision Blizzard then promoted a younger “non-white employee,” Jonathan Lee, who is currently the chief operating officer 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,” the lawsuit says.

Under Lee’s management, Venable received a poor performance review and the lowest merit increase in his Activision Blizzard career, according to the complaint. He also says that he was given fewer stock options than younger, nonwhite employees. Later, a female employee in Venable’s department made a comment on his “white male privilege” in an email to his boss and the human resources department. Venable complained to HR about the comments and the company’s alleged “failure to protect” him from discrimination. Months later, he was fired — and Venable believes that it was in retaliation for his HR complaint. Venable was let go on Aug. 21 during a company restructuring, alongside seven other “older, male employees” ranging in age from 47 to 64, according to the lawsuit. Venable says that Activision Blizzard’s stated reason for the layoffs — “job elimination and restructuring needs” — was untrue, and points to job postings for the department.

This isn’t the first time the company has been sued for discrimination. Activision Blizzard settled its California Civil Rights Department gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit the month prior to Venable’s action. The company will pay $55 million in damages, the majority of which will go to its current and former female employees. Activision Blizzard settled a similar discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2021, where it agreed to pay $18 million.

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