Call of Duty developer Activision Blizzard agrees to $18m settlement over sexual harassment claims


Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s most high-profile video game companies, has agreed to pay $18million to settle a lawsuit filed on Thursday by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) following an investigation into claims it ignored sexual harassment allegations.

The three-year investigation looked into workplace complaints of allegedly pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination at Activision Blizzard’s offices in Santa Monica, California, and alleges that female employees were paid less than their male-counterparts. 

The games developer, which owns titles such as ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘World of Warcraft’, will set up an $18million ‘compensation fund’ to provide payouts to eligible claimants.

Any remaining funds will be donated to charities dedicated to supporting gender equality, women in the video game industry and victims of sexual harassment, or will be used to bolster Activision Blizzard’s own diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said: ‘There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind, and I am grateful to the employees who bravely shared their experiences. 

I am sorry that anyone had to experience inappropriate conduct.’ 

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, above, said: ‘There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind, and I am grateful to the employees who bravely shared their experiences. I am sorry that anyone had to experience inappropriate conduct’

Activision Blizzard, one of the world's most high-profile video game companies, has agreed to pay $18million to settle a lawsuit filed on Thursday by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s most high-profile video game companies, has agreed to pay $18million to settle a lawsuit filed on Thursday by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 

The EEOC, which had investigated allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation at Activision for three years before filing a lawsuit on Thursday, found that the company failed to take corrective and preventive measures on sexual harassment complaints.

It sought a court order that requires Activision Blizzard to cease unlawful behavior and pay restitution to employees who suffered discrimination or retaliation. 

The EEOC is now said to be working with multiple regulators ‘on addressing and resolving workplace complaints it has received’, and will review Activision Blizzard’s allocation of payouts from the new $18million compensation fund.

In addition to setting up the fund, Activision Blizzard says that it is committed to making the company ‘one of the best, most inclusive places to work’ and has hired a new ‘Chief People Officer’ from Disney to address complaints of workplace discrimination. 

Finally, the company announced it would appoint a third-party consultant for oversight and a review of the company’s practices, whose findings will be regularly reported to the board of directors as well as the EEOC.

Commenting on the agreement, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said: ‘I remain unwavering in my commitment to make Activision Blizzard one of the world’s most inclusive, respected, and respectful workplaces.’ 

Activision Blizzard is the company behind popular games Call of Duty and Candy Crush

Activision Blizzard is the company behind popular games Call of Duty and Candy Crush

Activision Blizzard is the company behind popular games Call of Duty and Candy Crush

Employees of Activision Blizzard held a walkout and protest rally to denounce the company's treatment of women and other marginalized groups in Los Angeles on July 28, 2021

Employees of Activision Blizzard held a walkout and protest rally to denounce the company’s treatment of women and other marginalized groups in Los Angeles on July 28, 2021

What are the complaints against Activision Blizzard? 

In their lawsuit filed on Monday, the EEOC set out a series of complaints against Activision Blizzard.

The commission accused Activision Blizzard of subjecting female employees to sexual harassment, retaliating against them for complaining about harassment, and paying female employees less than male employees. 

The commission also alleged that the video games developer also ‘discriminated against employees due to their pregnancy.’

The latest lawsuit comes two months after one filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing over the games company’s discriminatory workplace culture.

Kotick added: ‘We will continue to be vigilant in our commitment to the elimination of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. 

‘We thank the EEOC for its constructive engagement as we work to fulfil our commitments to eradicate inappropriate conduct in the workplace.’

Monday’s lawsuit comes just two months months after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged Activision Blizzard allowed a ‘frat boy’ workplace culture.’ 

The lawsuit from July also claims ‘executives sexually harassed women and male employees openly joked about rape and drank alcohol while engaging in ‘inappropriate behavior’ toward women, it was further alleged. 

The company’s shares have dropped 20% in two months as legal woes built over an alleged culture of discrimination against women and minorities at the maker of Candy Crush, Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft. 

The stock dropped 0.5% to $75.08 in Monday afternoon trading.

In late July, California’s civil rights agency sued the company, alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Employees staged a walkout to protest what they said was Activision’s culture of sexism and discrimination. 

Meanwhile, the games developer continues to contend with several other lawsuits and complaints.

The National Labor Relations Board filed a lawsuit earlier this month accusing the company of unfair labor practices, which came amid an ongoing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after the regulator issued a subpoena to the company and several of its current and former employees regarding employment and workplace practices. 

Employees of the video game company Activision Blizzard held a walkout in July

Employees of the video game company Activision Blizzard held a walkout in July

A number of employees have spoken out in support of the claims, with more than 2,000 signing an open letter calling for the company to take action. Picture, protestors at a July walkout

A number of employees have spoken out in support of the claims, with more than 2,000 signing an open letter calling for the company to take action. Picture, protestors at a July walkout

A shareholder lawsuit in August said the company failed to disclose to investors that it was being investigated in California and that it had workplace culture issues that could result in legal problems. 

The shareholder suit noted unhappiness within the company, saying more than 2,000 current and former Activision employees signed a petition criticizing the company’s response to the California suit as ‘insulting’ and saying they did not trust leadership to ‘place employee safety above their own interests.’



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