The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's lawsuit against Activision Blizzard has officially ended in a settlement, with U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer approving the previously proposed $18 million agreement today.
The settlement creates a pathway for current and former Activision Blizzard employees that worked at the company between now and September 2016 to submit a claim concerning instances of sexual harassment, pay or promotion disparity, and discrimination against pregnant staff to potentially receive a part of the compensation fund.
However, as The Washington Post points out, participating in the fund could complicate other attempts for current and former Activision Blizzard staff to seek legal recourse against the company for those same experiences.
Along with the fund, and according to a press release from Activision Blizzard, the settlement requires the company to "continue enhancing policies, practices, and training" relating to the prevention of workplace harassment and discrimination, hire a EEOC-approved and third-party equal employment opportunity consultant, and hire an internal EEO coordinator (which Activision Blizzard accomplished via a hire earlier this month.)
"The agreement we reached with the EEOC last year reflected our
unwavering commitment to ensure a safe and equitable working environment
for all employees,” reads a statement from Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, who himself has faced accusations of enabling abusive behavior within the company.
Elsewhere in the press release, Activision Blizzard notes it has taken multiple steps to improve on its workplace culture including a bolstered ethics and compliance team, programs to facilitate better hiring and promotion practices, and a zero tolerance policy for harassment (implemented in the weeks before the aforementioned accusations about Kotick came to light).
"Our goal is to make Activision Blizzard a model for the industry, and we will continue to focus on eliminating harassment and discrimination from our workplace," continues Kotick. "The court’s approval of this settlement is an important step in ensuring that our employees have mechanisms for recourse if they experienced any form of harassment or retaliation."
The $18 million settlement itself was first proposed in September 2021, merely a day after the EEOC filed its lawsuit aiming "to correct unlawful employment practices based on sex and to provide appropriate relief to a class of individuals who were adversely affected by such practices." At the time, Activision Blizzard suggested such a settlement would allow it to "make amends to eligible claimants" while also avoiding the "expense, distraction, and possible litigation" the allegations could bring.
While the settlement ends one lawsuit against the Call of Duty publisher, Activision Blizzard notably faces several more along the same thematic lines as the EEOC case. In just the last few months, Activision Blizzard was named in lawsuits from a former employee alleging a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination and a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of an employee who died by suicide following alleged sexual harassment during her time at Activision Blizzard.
Additionally, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's original lawsuit is yet ongoing, and will continue on despite the DFEH's concern that the EEOC settlement would complicate its own proceedings. However, individuals who choose to participate in the EEOC settlement would waive their rights to participate in the DFEH's lawsuit on those three specific issues mentioned within the EEOC settlement: sexual harassment, pay or promotion disparity, and discrimination against pregnant staff.