Activision Blizzard Reaches $18 Million Settlement with EEOC

By Douglas Lipsky

The gaming world was rocked in September when Activision Blizzard and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) announced a settlement in the employee watchdog’s lawsuit against the games giant alleging pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination.

Though the $18 million dollar settlement only represents a fraction of Activision’s revenues, this case highlights the lasting repercussions of harassment and discrimination claims for businesses and employees not only in New York but around the country.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace, talk to an employment lawyer. In the meantime, this is a brief discussion of the sexual harassment and discrimination claim against Activision and the game maker’s settlement with the/EEOC.

Female Employees At Activision Had Been Subjected To Discrimination and Harassment

Activision Blizzard is the maker of several popular video games, including Call of Duty, Diablo, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft. The agreement came hours after the EEOC filed a lawsuit against the company in a California federal court. 

In its complaint, the EEOC says it notified the company of its findings in June and then engaged in “extensive conciliation discussions” with the game maker. As an aside, when the conciliation process does not resolve a claim before the EEOC, the agency has the option to file a lawsuit.

As part of the Settlement Agreement, Activision denied any wrongdoing and agreed to create an $18 million restitution fund to compensate employees who claim damages. In addition, the settlement requires the game maker to:

  • Comply with anti-discrimination laws
  • Ensure its workplace is free from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation 
  • Retain a consultant to ensure compliance
  • Upgrade its training and performance review processes to prevent future offenses
  • Submit to future EEOC audits

Finally, any unclaimed money from the restitution fund will be donated to charities dedicated to the advancement of women in the gaming and tech sectors and used to improve Activision’s internal programs to promote inclusion, gender equality, and diversity.

A Three-Year Investigation Into Harassment And Discrimination 

The lawsuit was the result of an investigation the EEOC began in September 2018 over allegations dating back to September 2016. The suit claimed had claimed that (1) female employees had been subjected to sex-based discrimination and harassment, including pregnancy and wage discrimination, and (2) victims who complained about discrimination were subject to dismissal. 

The EEOC also alleged that Activision Blizzard failed to take action to stop harassment when employees complained and that employees who complained about pregnancy discrimination were subject to dismissal.

Trouble Ahead For Activision Blizzard

The EEOC’s harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard is one of several legal disputes facing the company. State regulators have also filed a lawsuit against the company alleging discrimination and harassment. In addition, shareholders filed a class-action lawsuit claiming they were damaged by executives’ failure to disclose information about the California state harassment lawsuit. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission has also started an investigation into how the company has dealt with recent allegations of misconduct and discrimination. Finally, multiple key employees, including the president and chief legal officer, have left the company since August.

Why This Matters

The lawsuits tell the familiar story of a gaming company with a hostile work environment where female employees were verbally and physically harassed without consequence. It is interesting to note that the settlement requires Activision Blizzard to support charities dedicated to the advancement of women in the gaming and tech sectors, given the fact that sex-based discrimination and harassment are pervasive in those sectors. 

Regardless of the type of business, no one should have to put up with discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The best way to protect your rights is to consult with an experienced employment law attorney.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.