Link To Guest Website:

Title: “Why All Businesses Should Watch The Blizzard Discrimination Case”
Guest: Walter Foster – Eckert Seamans
Interviewer: Jeffrey Davis – MAGE LLC

Click here to read the transcript

Jeffrey (1s):
Well, hello, everybody. Welcome back to Radio Entrepreneurs, the show that’s constantly streaming stories of entrepreneurship and business, and how to adapt to this changing economy. And guess what, we’re going into the fall. We’re still making change and we’re going to continue to make change. And I’m excited about our next guest. Who’s been on the show before because as the world of a co our economy changes. So what are the laws around us change? And the other is some things or brewing in the west coast that I think is going to affect all of us. So on a Welcome back, Walter Foster partners, Eckert, Seamans, Welcome back, Walter.

Walter (36s):
Thanks for having me.

Jeffrey (37s):
So it’s my pleasure, Walter, you know, you brought up in another meeting a couple of weeks ago, a new ruling in California, or a new case that’s being filed. I’m not sure what state we’re in. Why don’t you tell our listeners? Because I think all entrepreneurs, when they listen to this one,

Walter (52s):
Happy to do so. So recently the state of California, after a investigating Blizzard Activision for two years’ filed the lawsuit. At the heart of this lawsuit and why its kind of a, a kind of a earth shattering and we were saying is we’ll be a bellwether litigation in this. A gaming industry is the fundamental part of a is really brought on equal pay. But also because they have maintained a sexist environment or, you know, a legend that it’s been a cut of a frat boy, the culture, many of your listeners would know that a blizzard Activision, his, the world of Warcraft call of duty and candy crush and is part of a billion dollar industry that is a worldwide that has grown and will continue to grow.

Walter (1m 42s):
But the games that they’ve produced as well as their employment environment have been very, really largely male dominated. The, the California state agency is charged with enforcing the anti-discrimination laws recently about a year ago, both federal and state wise have instituted new equal pay loss. And this is really kinda the first of its kind that we’re seeing. That’s gonna bring the hammer down on in this industry and many others about making sure in particular, we usually, of course, it’s all women are getting equal pay as men for the same or similar jobs. So we’re, we’re watching this one really closely,

Jeffrey (2m 22s):
But you had mentioned also about a, an employee walk or did they walk out? So that’s what really got to me, but we are the employees and they found their voice and they found their hammer.

Walter (2m 36s):
So yeah, so this case, unlike what we would call it, the isolated incident cases is like, oh, if somebody is having an affair at work and it doesn’t really affect me, what this case is really laying, there is a systemic kind of approach that, and really management again, allegedly management support of discrimination against women. And when the case was a NetApp, the response by the blizzard a folks was, oh, these are really old. This happened a while ago. They’re outdated. You’re, mis-characterizing it. It’s not true. We, we call it the day, dig in as, and fight it and mentality.

Walter (3m 19s):
Within days they have a walkout buy large parts of their, a employee growth. And I’ve never seen a group of employees react to the company’s position publicly on the lawsuit basically saying, oh no, no, this is an extremely sexist environment in, you’ve got to do something to fix it. And they’re the two things that, to me, what that indicated is here’s a state agency bringing a case against a company you now have, they have almost every employee you saying we will cooperate in that. So they’re going to testify as to what has happened to them, support those allegations in a way I’ve never seen before.

Walter (4m 1s):
It’s almost like for us litigators, but it’s almost like if the case is over it, you have your entire workforce fighting against your management style. You’re in deep trouble. So that was really you. Don’t kind of a seismic reaction by the employees that was, was, was well noted across, across the board.

Jeffrey (4m 21s):
There’s so many ways that you’ve ticked me with this whole thing. You know, I’ve always told employers, there’s the official legal structure. And then there’s the unofficial structure and the workers create their own structure within an organization. If people follow that they have their own thought leader is not the ones who are anointed by the organization, butt anointed by themselves. Sure. And I tried to get, I tried to get leaders to understand this and you know, where unions used to say, I have to have a formal structure to represent you here. We found a source of a new age way of working that American’s. And I really think this is an American psyche

Walter (5m 0s):
Where you’re very empowered.

Jeffrey (5m 3s):
We have come together on their own and they speak without the formal structure, have a union or the formal structure of an organization to act on behalf of the betterment of the full group of people. And I think this is very important to watch because I believe this is a typically and uniquely American behavior, which will continue to happen. That Americans are more mobile and more free. And millennials, especially since we’re talking about technology and the west coast millennials have this belief that I talked to, that the way the world has been built was built wrong.

Jeffrey (5m 42s):
And it’s up to them to stand up two, maybe even let’s say baby boomers, who I am. And I think you are as well, and really try to Curt and, and not sort of let them go too far. So I see this as a very important business and social movement. It’s not going to stop. It’s going to give people the sense of power. Sorry. So

Walter (6m 5s):
Yeah, I agree. A hundred percent. Your, your insight. I have also seen about what I call the, the employee culture or to put it another way that whatever legal compliance are, if you’re not keeping morale up amongst your employees’, you want of a company. So this is voting by the feet and is empowerment. We have not scene. And I think its here to stay there. And it’s interesting that it’s happening in the gaming industry because the gaming industry, the average age, most likely for this group of employees is much younger potentially than other than other types of industries.

Walter (6m 47s):
And so I think you’re, you’re taught, but it’s also, it’s an entirely new industry that didn’t exist for the baby boomers, right? But it is, this is like an amazing worldwide phenomenon. And what you’re seeing already is a management structure. That’s not even realizing that their base is growing is women know that the women comprised much of online gaming in a continuing growing park where it was really nailed dominated, but on a larger piece, the employees a without any union Instructure. And I will say they’ve because they had it written petition two, the management group with certain asks and I looked at that very carefully and it wasn’t your typical, I would call it a rabble rouser employee request.

Walter (7m 33s):
The so typically what you see from the, the, the rank and file is we want that CEO president gone, you know, he’s the one that is created this, it wasn’t any such request. What did it was a request for is no longer private, confidential arbitration agreements with us. So they had signed as a part of the employment relationship. If anything goes wrong, including the sex harassment case of whatever, it’s all confidential and arbitration out of the court, no one can see it. And many believe that that had led to the particular in and you know, emboldened in this environment. So I think you’re right to see this as a bellwether, not only within the legal compliance arena, but in how you do business.

Walter (8m 18s):
And in fact, as I understand it, the shareholders have already brought a suit against the company because of the drop in value. And that’s how dramatic. So I think it’s incredibly important for business entrepreneurs to understand this dynamic, if you’re building a company, how to do it, right. You know, you’re, you’re helping them with all the, the, what bricks to put in place to make sure your building a solid foundation. This is a new one. Anyone who runs a foul of this is really going to be potentially losing the business or otherwise having that business become a less relevant. And therefore, you know, we surpassed by other companies that pay attention to this stuff.

Jeffrey (8m 58s):
Well, again, I know a lot of people don’t like to touch issues because they just don’t want it to hurt them. But you know, in all of this discussion, we have left human resources’ out of it. And so that’s a constant debate and discussion I’ve had with many people in academia and or, or organizational work and, you know, the whole, you know, like a compliance issue for HR or that they’re working so much on compliance and they want to keep their jobs. And they’re trying to sort of subdue issues, you know, and not have things bubble up. And you know, I’m not sure that HR is really equipped in today’s world politically or, or their skillsets are what their really in their real agendas to deal with this to, because I’m sure those organizations had HR department’s and where we’re they that’s like saying, oh, where was the CIA given information about Afghanistan?

Jeffrey (9m 50s):
Sorry, its like, you know it after the fact, but I don’t think that’s what they were structured to do. They were structured to say, you know, this organization’s is functioning day-to-day we are doing payroll, we’re doing this, we’ve got our employment letter. Is that what we’re doing? Our recruiting, everything is smooth. It’s you know, if I were there, I would probably be telling people what the problems are. Cause that’s what I do. And they were saying, eh, you know, a 50, 50, well, no, if people have listened to me more, now that I’m grey than when I was in gray.

Walter (10m 21s):
After a year’s time,

Jeffrey (10m 24s):
You don’t think the content or changed that much. It might be more humorous, but it is a lot more the grave it has in effect

Walter (10m 30s):
You get brings with it some gravitas. But you, you know, again,

Jeffrey (10m 34s):
I think as an issue,

Walter (10m 36s):
It is if it’s a big issue and in so far as it seen as the roll, as what I call it, a subsidiary role where, you know, we in the C-suite, you know, are what matters most is what’s the newest game, you know, our creative sides, what matters most to a text. Yeah. T T topline and therefore bottom-line, you know, the results where HR doesn’t have that until you come to this. So here’s, here’s where the HR gets translated because this lawsuit is going to require an entire and they’ve already hired an outside law firm to look at the company from top to bottom, not only on this frat boy culture, which you have to eradicate, but that that’s, you, you know, that’s like you really gone far a field where they’re looking at the equal pay issues.

Walter (11m 27s):
So when you’ve hired, how many women or in the creative department, or how many women who have a seat at the table at the C-suite and what are they getting paid? And that has not seen the light of day. That’s where the you can’t go out. And the company is been put at risk if you haven’t assessed that in terms of the compliance. So either the ostrich approach of like HR just compliance and it doesn’t really affect the bottom line insofar as you think that that is the, if you will, the role of HR, you’ve got it wrong. So,

Jeffrey (12m 5s):
And I’ve just added at the C suite. I’m glad you brought up because I think everybody’s culpable the fish rots from the head down. But you know, if I see 90 out of a, a hundred executives that I say, why didn’t you, you know, you of such a nice office, we should get rid of it. You’re too comfortable to get out of your office. Let’s destroy your office. You’ve gotta, you gotta be out with your people. You gotta read, you know, if like those CEO TV, show’s where they were a disguised and they learned about their organizations, it mingling, then they are, they’re doing the wrong job as well. I mean, I think we’ve all sort of fallen prey from top to bottom and have to re-look it, this whole thing and how and how this is. I think you’ve brought up important subject. ’cause this whole equality issue, a gender issue.

Jeffrey (12m 46s):
Its not gonna go away. ’cause it’s the right issue is people might say it’s the wrong issue or, or they don’t like it, but it is the right issue because if you’ve ever been judged inappropriately in your life, you know, it’s the right issue for everyone. Yeah,

Walter (13m 3s):
It is. And they really, this is the continuation of both the me too movement, which was, you know, you were right left and center, our focus right before the pandemic hit and his not going to stop. And in fact it’s actually really better for organizations as well as the shareholder’s. If women are in the Csuite and running these companies, ’cause the, and I think that gaming and she is a very good example. My daughter happens to be a gamer and his aunt worked on the Twitter platform, loves this world, his part of this world, it’s, it’s still a difficult environment for women. But when women are at making the, at that C-suite table, making the decisions of like, okay, call of duty is a fantastic franchise.

Walter (13m 50s):
So what do you know gonna do about it? All the women and the girls because of the girls who are playing is a younger age, it in terms of the video games and, and that, that is a market that is largely, still untapped. You’ve tapped into this. You know, macho is a single person, shooter type of games. And we, we run with it. Great. Now your industry has matured. You have a incredible way to grow. How, you know, if I’m a shareholder, I’m asking the question, how are you doing that? How are you going to make money? As we move forward?

Jeffrey (14m 22s):
You, it comes down to culture and a lot of accompanies that do business foreign companies. I deal with that. Our very successful, they don’t look at culture. And I think we all got to look at what our culture is. I’ll just throw you back to the generational. When I first moved here from I’m originally from Canada, I had started businesses before I had worked for fortune 500 companies. The head hunter said to me, you always would say to me a, where did you go to school? And I go, oh, and I came down here and I had a lot of experience I’d say. And, and I looked at all, if they’d say, oh, where did you go to school? Or did you go to the Miguel? And that was the first question. And it over the years, and my answer has been refined. I looked back into my God, where did you go to school?

Jeffrey (15m 3s):
Harvard? I go, there’s more than one school in Canada. You know? And, and, and when I did and when they didn’t go to the Miguel and people would say to me, well, it might be harder for me to get you some interviews. I’m like, excuse me, did you read my resume? Did you read my experience? You know, if people tend to move to a very simplistic model, what they’ve known in the past, what you’ve known in the past doesn’t work. It, it doesn’t work for tomorrow. It worked yesterday, yesterday as yesterday’s news and a, and we need to all open up our minds, expand ourselves and understand that people wanna work. And they don’t want to be limited by an old model.

Walter (15m 43s):
They don’t. And those who don’t recognize that in my opinion, but I’ve seen, because I can say as well with a few gray hairs, his, that either you’re going and get on board, where are you gonna miss, but journey. So you really will a none. It, the only constant is the change, right? And, and at least in my eyes it’s been changed for the better and it, and so I see that as the future of this. Yeah.

Jeffrey (16m 12s):
You know what? I talked to people about how I like to manage change. I always say a big part of my goal is to make sure people have fun. Yeah, it does. It changed is not fun. And it is threatening. It’s hard to do a at Walter, you and I are going to be talking again in another part. But if someone is looking for you at Eckert, Seamans wants to know more about what’s going on and how to handle it. How would they find you so

Walter (16m 33s):
Much? You can find me on the web Eckert, Seamans dot com. So the firm, and just look me up at a, if anybody wants to email me is w foster at Eckert, Seamans dot com, happy to follow up and answer any questions.

Jeffrey (16m 46s):
And I know a Walter, what you see is what you get a straight answer, a fun answer, Walter, thanks for being on the show. I look forward to seeing you again, all

Walter (16m 54s):
Right. Do it as well. Thank you very much. Take care of, you know,

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