Amid yesterday’s explosive allegations that CEO Bobby Kotick was aware “for years” of abuse at Activision Blizzard, additional reports emerged that former Blizzard co-lead Jennifer Oneal wanted to resign in part due to issues that included being paid less than her male counterpart, Mike Ybarra. Ybarra has now told Blizzard employees he and Oneal asked for pay parity together, but Oneal says she was offered an equal contract only after resigning from the role.
Yesterday, Ybarra responded to allegations in internal messages separately confirmed by multiple Blizzard employees. The messages, screenshots of which were viewed by IGN, were posted in a public Slack channel and directed to Blizzard employees.
“Hello Blizzard, please see the email I sent this morning. I know many leaders plan to meet with their teams throughout the day. This is a difficult time for all of us, myself included. I have been asked and want to make it clear: Jen and I shared with management that we wanted to be paid the same to co-lead Blizzard together,” Ybarra wrote.
“As a leader, equality in its broadest sense is something I 100% stand behind. As a team, I share our desire for change and growth. I’m committed to fostering that with all of you to make Blizzard what we all want it to be. I will be sending out a video shortly to all of Blizzard. Thank you and know that I am processing today’s news — and struggling in areas like many of you.”
When another employee expressed confusion as to why leadership would reject the request from Blizzard’s two co-leads, Ybarra added additional context to his comments. “Jen and I were both on existing contracts. I ran [Battle.net & Online Products] and she ran [Vicarious Visions] so our pay was different. The first time both Jen and I were offered a new contract, it was the same across both of us for the new co-leader of Blizzard roles, so our compensation was going to be the same.”
Ybarra’s response appears to be an attempt to explain part of the Wall Street Journal’s earlier report, in which Oneal was said to have sent a letter to Activision Blizzard’s legal division a month after taking on the role, alleging that she was paid less than Ybarra while being “tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against.” Oneal tendered her resignation earlier this month, shocking many employees who regarded her as a positive force within the company.
However, Oneal seemingly sought to clarify the situation further, adding details that Ybarra had not mentioned. In additional conversations viewed by IGN, Oneal responded forcefully to Ybarra’s comments, saying she didn’t want to be involved “in a debate” on Slack, and that she hadn’t received an equivalent offer until after she had tendered her resignation.
“When Mike and I were placed in the same co-lead role, we went into the role with our previous compensation, which was not equivalent. It remained that way for some time well after we made multiple rejected requests to change it to parity,” she wrote. It remains unclear as to why Activision Blizzard rejected those requests.
She continued, “While the company informed me before I tendered my resignation that they were working on a new proposal, we were made equivalent offers only after I tendered that resignation.” (Emphasis Oneal’s)
Oneal will remain an employee at Activision Blizzard until the end of the year, and says that she will continue to try and better the company “in good faith.” However, she said she did not want there to be any “misunderstanding about when I was offered equivalent compensation.”
IGN has reached out to Blizzard for comment and will update this article accordingly.
The scandal surrounding Activision Blizzard’s culture of harassment and discrimination was previously reignited by a bombshell report by the Wall Street Journal that revealed that Kotick was aware of major allegations but failed to report them to the board. The report sparked a walkout by Activision Blizzard employees, even as Activision Blizzard’s board stood by Kotick.
Activision Blizzard employees that IGN spoke with described feelings of dismay over what they felt was the most damning report yet.
Activision Blizzard recently reached a tentative settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that still needs to be approved in federal court, but continues to be engaged in multiple court battles surrounding the harassment allegations. You can read our full timeline here.
Correction: This article was updated to clarify that Activision Blizzard’s settlement with the EEOC still needs to be approved in federal court.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN.