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Activision Blizzard lawsuit expanded to include contractors, claims publisher shredded documents

California DFEH also claims appointment of law firm WilmerHale has interfered with investigation

The State of California has expanded its lawsuit against Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard, now stating the suit is also on behalf of the company's contractors and claiming the firm interfered with its two-year investigation.

Axios reports the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed an amended complaint on Monday, redefining the group it represents to include temporary workers in addition to the female full-time staff it previously stated.

The language throughout the complaint has also been altered, changing "employees" to "workers" and specifically mentions anti-harassment, equal pay and other equally employment protections that exist "for employees and contingent or temporary workers."

Axios' Stephen Totilo also shared a section of the court document via Twitter, in which the DFEH adds a new cause for action around Activision Blizzard's alleged "failure to maintain and produce records."

After stating various laws that dictate what records and documents companies should keep, the DFEH claims it issued a Document Retention Notice to Activision Blizzard as soon as it filed the original complaint.

This notice notified the firm of its obligation to "not destroy, conceal, or alter any documents or data relevant" to the case.

The DFEH notes that Activision Blizzard's response was the public announcement of its decision to call in law firm WilmerHale for an internal review -- a decision that has since been criticised by a group of Activision Blizzard employees protesting against the company's handling of the case.

By telling employees to speak confidentially to WilmerHale, the DFEH claims Activision Blizzard has "directly [interfered]" with its ability to investigate, prosecute and remedy the violations cited in its suit.

It adds that, during its investigation, Activision Blizzard "refused to produce documents regarding complaints and investigations of discrimination and harassment by asserting that they did not exist or that they were privileged and confidential because attorneys were involved in the receipt of complains and the investigation."

The DFEH also says it has been informed and is aware that documents and records have not been maintained, as required by law, and alleges that some have been "shredded by human resource personnel."

Activision Blizzard issued a statement on the matter to IGN, in which it claims it "complied with every proper request" throughout its work with the DFEH over its two-year investigation, and denies shredding documents.

"With regards to claims that we have destroyed information by shredding documents, those claims are not true," the company said. "We took appropriate steps to preserve information relevant to the DFEH investigation."

It also claims it has made several reforms to its workplace since the investigation first began, including several high-level personnel changes, revamped hiring and recruiting practices requiring diverse interview panels, increased training for HR and compliance staff, and more transparency on pay equity.

"We strive to be a company that recognizes and celebrates the diverse talents and perspectives that lead to the creation of great, globally appealing entertainment," the company said.

"We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we do not have gender pay or promotion disparities. Our senior leadership is increasingly diverse, with a growing number of women in key leadership roles across the company.

"We share DFEH's goal of a safe, inclusive workplace that rewards employees equitably and are committed to setting an example that others can follow."

The DFEH first filed its complaint against Activision Blizzard last month, accusing the publisher of cultivating a toxic work environment that was a "breeding ground" for discrimination and harassment.

It also claimed the company had violated civil rights and equal pay laws, especially when it came to women who work at the company.

Activision Blizzard denied all accusations and criticised the DFEH for building a case on "distorted" and "false" claims.

Thousands of current and former employees have since signed an open letter decrying this response and demanding changes at the company, even staging a walkout at the main Blizzard campus.

The group, now posting on twitter as 'ABetterABK' (referring to the three divisions of the company: Activision, Blizzard and King), claims that 26 days since the walkout, none of its demands have been met.

You can follow this ongoing story in our full round-up here.

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