Activision Employees Stage Walkout for LGBTQ, Reproductive Rights Protection

Author: Robert S. Teachout, Brightmine Legal Editor

July 27, 2022

Possibly foretelling a trend in protected labor protests following the Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Activision Blizzard workers in four states walked off the job recently to pressure the game design company to end gender inequity.

Hundreds of employees in California, Texas, Minnesota and New York, organized by A Better ABK, used the one-year anniversary of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the company to make demands they said would protect reproductive rights and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) employees.

A Better ABK is an Activision Blizzard employee rights group with ties to the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO.

The employees' demands include:

  • The option for all ABK employees to choose fully remote work or, for positions requiring onsite work, the option to relocate to an office in a safe state or country;
  • Relocation assistance to a "a safe state or country" for employees currently residing in locations passing discriminatory legislation (i.e., abortion restrictions or prohibitions, restrictions against transgender or gay rights);
  • Assurance that health insurance will continue to cover transgender and reproductive healthcare, including abortion; and
  • Signing a labor-neutrality agreement to ease the formation of a union and implementation of collective bargaining.

Although abortion and LGBTQ rights are political issues, they also impact the workplace; as such, A Better ABK's demands may be deemed to be about the terms and conditions of the workplace, in which case the employee's walkout would be protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

"Generally speaking, employees have the right under the NLRA to engage in protected concerted activity, which includes mass walkouts in protest against terms and conditions of employment," attorney Jon Hyman of Wickens Herzer Panza explained. "However, if an employer has a bona fide and consistently applied policy against no-call/no-shows (or other attendance or time-off policy), it can lawfully enforce that policy against the walkouts."

"The key, however, is consistency," Hyman said. "If the employer has even one instance of giving an employee a pass, it is taking a huge risk that the NLRB will find that enforcement against the walkouts equates to unlawful retaliation."

Activision employees have held similar walkouts in the past. In April, they walked out to protest the company's ending its COVID-19 vaccination mandate; in November 2021 to call for the ouster of the CEO over alleged sexual misconduct; and in July 2021 to protest sexual harassment, gender-based harassment and pay inequality.