The parents of Activision Publishing employee, who killed herself while at a company retreat, have now filed a suit in California state court, alleging the video game maker’s failure to prevent her from being sexually harassed was a “substantial factor” in her death.
Paul and Janet Moynihan sued Activision Publishing Inc., a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday claiming the company’s failure to safeguard their daughter, Kerri Moynihan, from sexual harassment by a supervisor and other male colleagues drove her to suicide.
The 32-year-old Moynihan, who worked at Activision for six years and rose to the level of finance manager, was found dead in a hotel room at a company-sponsored retreat in Anaheim, California, on April 27, 2017. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Orange County coroner.
The Moynihan’s said in their suit that the harassment their daughter experienced was “so severe and pervasive” that it created a hostile work environment that a reasonable woman in her position would have considered “intimidating, offensive, oppressive and abusive.”
The Moynihan’s said, “Activision’s failure to take immediate, suitable and effective corrective action and/or all reasonable steps to prevent that workplace sexual harassment was a substantial factor in bringing about Kerri’s death.”
In addition to a wrongful death claim, the complaint asserted claims of unlawful workplace sexual harassment and accused Activision of failing to prevent that harassment. The family is seeking at least $1 million in damages.
A company spokesperson stated, “We at Activision Blizzard were, and continue to be, deeply saddened by the tragic death of Ms. Moynihan, who was a valued member of the company. We will address that complaint through the legal process as appropriate, and out of respect for the family we have no further comment at this time.”
The embattled Activision, which Microsoft is attempting to buy in a deal worth almost $69 billion, has been the target of both federal and state regulators over the allegedly toxic workplace environment women have faced.
In a lawsuit filed last year, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged that Activision Blizzard fostered a sexist "frat boy" culture in which women were illegally underpaid and subjected to "constant sexual harassment" that included groping, inappropriate comments and advances.
All the while, Activision Blizzard's top executives and its human resources personnel knew about the harassment but failed to prevent it and retaliated against women who complained, according to DFEH's lawsuit, which is ongoing.
A separate lawsuit against Activision Blizzard was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alongside an $18 million settlement between the company and the federal civil rights watchdog that the DFEH subsequently tried to challenge.
Although the DFEH didn't mention Moynihan by name in its suit, it referred to a female employee who died by suicide during a business trip "due to a sexual relationship that she had been having with a male supervisor" as a particularly "tragic example" of what women at the company endured.
The DFEH also said another employee confirmed a separate instance of sexual harassment that the unnamed woman experienced. Her male colleagues had passed around an explicit picture of her during a holiday party that took place shortly before her death, according to DFEH's suit.
In Thursday's wrongful death suit, Moynihan's parents said they believed the unnamed woman in the state's suit was their daughter and that they first became aware of the workplace sexual harassment she experienced through the state's legal filings.
Moynihan's parents claimed that at the time of their daughter's death, she was involved in a sexual relationship with a supervisor, Greg Restituito, even though Activision had a policy that didn't allow for managers to enter into sexual relationships with subordinates.
According to the family's suit, Restituito initially concealed information from police about the nature of his relationship with Moynihan immediately following her death, then disclosed it later.
Activision also refused to turn over Moynihan's work-issued laptop to police, didn't grant investigators access to her supervisor's work-issued laptop and cellphone, and told police that the supervisor's cellphone "had been 'wiped,'" according to Thursday's complaint.