A veteran Activision Blizzard executive claims the “Call of Duty” maker canned him because it had “too many old white guys,” according to a lawsuit.
James Reid Venable, 57, filed an age discrimination lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court last week against the company, which finalized a $69 billion merger with Microsoft last October.
The lawsuit cites alleged comments made by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick at a leadership conference that the “problem” with the company was that “there are too many old white guys.”
Kotick resigned last month after the company agreed to pay about $54 million to settle discrimination claims brought by California’s civil rights agency on behalf of women who alleged they faced constant sexual harassment.
It is not clear when Kotick had made the alleged “ageist” remark.
Venable, who was senior director of business operations at the firm, alleged that his former bosses “retaliated and discriminated” against him after he filed a complaint with the human resources department, according to the complaint, which was first reported by the site Law360.
According to the filing, Venable was promoted several times due to him being a “high performing executive” after joining the company 10 years ago.
Two other executives at the company — both white men in their 50s — left the firm “at least in part, on Kotick’s ageist remarks,” it was alleged in the lawsuit.
Venable claimed in the lawsuit that his supervisor was among the executives who exited. Upon leaving the firm, the executive recommended that Venable be promoted and that two divisions of the company be consolidated under Venable’s “management and supervision.”
But Activision management instead decided to promote Jonathan Lee to serve as chief operating officer of the 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 alleged.
Under Lee, Venable was subjected to a “hostile work environment” that included him “attacking [Venable’s] performance” and “downgrading [his] performance reviews,” it was alleged in the lawsuit.
Venable alleged in the lawsuit that he was “given the lowest percentage merit increase in almost 10 years of employment at Activision, a 1.75% raise in base salary.”
He also alleged in the complaint that non-white subordinates were given substantially larger “growth equity” stock.
According to the lawsuit, a woman in Venable’s department complained to the human resources department that Venable’s “white male privilege” was “a factor in her merit increase being below her expectations.”
Venable called the accusations “defamatory” in the lawsuit.
In March of last year, he submitted a complaint to human resources that the company “failed to protect” him from “discriminatory and defamatory accusations” and demanded an investigation.
Venable alleged in the lawsuit that his complaint to HR “was ignored and he was not taken seriously.”
In August, Venable said in the complaint that he was among seven employees “ranging in age from 47 to age 64” who were laid off by the company as part of what it called a “restructuring” of the central technology department.
Venable alleged that Activision’s stated reason for the firing — “restructuring” — was “false and pretextual” given that the department was “currently hiring and expanding based on online posts on the company’s website and on external job recruiting websites.”
He seeks unspecified damages for loss of earnings, along with legal costs.
The Post has sought comment from Venable and Activision Blizzard.
With Post Wires