Video game publisher and developer Blizzard Entertainment has recently come under fire following reports that the company had engaged in discrimination against a former employee.
Former Blizzard Entertainment employee Jules Murillo-Cuellar recently shared via a post on Twitlonger that he had endured discrimination during his time at the video game publisher and developer. In the post, Murillo-Cuellar talks about what influenced his decision to leave the company after working on their e-sports team, where he claims that he was subjected to racism and other forms of abuse.
Murillo-Cuellar also disclosed in the post that he has filed a complaint against Blizzard with the federal government and reached out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after he was placed on a leave of absence by his employers. Since then he has been open about his experiences with the company, which shines a light on the question of ethics in an industry where employee mistreatment has become a norm at other companies such as Riot Games who came under scrutiny for how it treated its employees last year.
Murillo-Cuellar made the decision to go public as means to get closure and to tell his story as a “minority who was abused and later failed by leadership.” According to his LinkedIn profile, Murillo-Culler had joined Blizzard back in 2013, but the abuse he underwent didn’t begin there. It started after he became a member of the Hearthstone E-Sports Team, which manages the popular card game in 2016.
After becoming a permanent employee with Blizzard he claims that he was often excluded from meetings and calls about important aspects of the then-current tour. This discrimination did not just include him being excluded from essentially doing his job, but also harassing him on the basis of his race. Murillo-Cuellar stated that his colleagues would at times “joke about my sexism, or natural inclination to be sexist, due to my [Mexican] heritage.”
“The assumption because that… my attitudes, beliefs were that of a Mexican machista (male chauvinist). I didn’t make much of this since she said it ‘in jest’ but this would weigh on me.”
He added that the “jokes” about his “machismo” and being Mexican would “only become more frequent”, and disclosed that as a result of this harassment that he had begun to see a therapist who diagnosed him with major depression and anxiety.
After only spending a few months on the team he eventually went to his manager about the harassment. The manager then refused to respond to Murillo-Cuellar’s allegations of harassment and accused him of being the source of it.
“I was told I was being moody, and that nobody knew how to approach me… When I told him what was happening I was told to not pay attention and that he would take care of it. That wouldn’t be the case and the racial attacks continued.”
Murillo-Cuellar had essentially become the scapegoat among his colleagues or as he called it being “the team’s punching bag.” No resolution was made to end the practice of him being excluded from important meetings and calls. He also alleges that this exclusion extended into the omission of some of his major contributions as a member of the Hearthstone E-Sports team during an internal review of the team. Both his manager and some of the employees who had harassed him received promotions after the team received a positive review.
This abuse took a toll on his health as he regularly worked into the early hours of the morning. Over the course of two years, he would experience regular panic attacks and multiple mental breakdowns and developed post-traumatic stress disorder on top of the major depression and anxiety that he was diagnosed with. He regularly considered suicide, which he did attempt in December 2017.
He continuously raised his concerns with human resources and his supervisor, but no preventative majors were taken. This influenced Murillo-Cuellar’s decision to finally leave Blizzard early last year, going on to work at Rocket League developer Psyonix, before establishing his own firm, Muri Entertainment. He noted that this harassment was not only happening to him, but a few other employees and his wife who also was under Blizzard’s employment.
He concluded the post by adding that his decision to publicize his story was partially influenced by the recent announcement that a popular character in Overwatch was gay as part of Blizzard’s initiative to further inclusion and diversity in all of its multiplayer titles.
“The idea of inclusion, of representation, and ‘every voice matters and ‘think globally’ never meant that for me and other people of colour I have spoken to,” he writes. “Because up until recently — in the last two years — has the community had some representation and initiatives. But are we really represented?
“Most people didn’t know why I departed Blizzard Entertainment, but I couldn’t stand idly while others didn’t have the slightest clue why my vitriol towards a company I truly loved and that I poured everything to only be shown the backdoor. I had filed the federal complaint, this is public knowledge, and nobody can tell me I cannot share what happened to me personally.”
Blizzard has since responded to the criticism surrounding its treatment of employees after an inquiry was made by Variety. A representative for the company reaffirmed that they are committed to an “inclusive and respectful workplace” by saying the following:
While the company does not comment on individual personnel issues, we can share that having an inclusive and respectful work environment is extremely important to us. We have a policy against harassment and discrimination and take reports of inappropriate behavior very seriously. There are a number of methods for employees to come forward should they experience or observe any inappropriate behavior. All claims of alleged harassment and discrimination which are brought to our attention are investigated, and we take action where appropriate. We strive to create an inclusive and respectful work environment that reflects Blizzard’s core values in everything we do.
“Employee and workplace health is also very important, and we offer different programs and opportunities that support employees, including health and wellness programs and counseling, both in the office (often provided for free) as well as through external professional providers.”
Whether Murillo-Cuellar’s story will make an impact on future human resources policies at Blizzard and other major game publishers and developers remains to be unseen. However, it is still an important story to be told and hopefully these companies will make the necessary reforms based upon feedback by those like Murillo-Cuellar who have been harassed by their colleagues.
If you or someone you know has been affected by some of these issues there are resources for support. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
What do you think of this news? Is Blizzard going to change their practices? Let us know in the comments below!