Activision Blizzard to pay $54 million to California after settling sexual harassment suit

Activision Blizzard has settled its 2021 sexual harassment lawsuit with the state of California and will pay $54 million, plus an additional $47 million to female employees who worked at the company from 2015 to 2020.

The 2021 lawsuit, filed by the state agency then known as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, now known as the California Department of Civil Rights, accused Activision Blizzard of fostering a “fart boy” culture on-site. The work was full of sexual harassment. Now, via New York Times MagazineActivision Blizzard and the California Department of Civil Rights said in the settlement agreement that an investigation into the company’s culture found no evidence of “systemic or widespread sexual harassment.”

According to the settlement agreement, an investigation into Activision’s board of directors, including CEO Bobby Kotick, found no evidence of wrongdoing. A report published by the Wall Street Journal in 2021 alleged that Kotick withheld information about misconduct at the company. The report alleged that he threatened to kill a female assistant in 2006 and personally intervened in a separate internal sexual harassment investigation at the company. Activision Blizzard previously argued against the lawsuit, attributing it to “irresponsible behavior by unaccountable government bureaucrats.”

Following the lawsuit’s claims, Activision Blizzard Announced The steps it had taken to create a “more responsive workplace”. These steps included the expansion and restructuring of the employee relations and ethics and compliance teams. It was also announced that more than 20 people involved in “resolved reports” at Activision Blizzard have left the company, and about 20 others have faced “disciplinary action.”

Even Blizzard’s Activision games were affected by the lawsuit, as Blizzard specifically sought to distance itself from the employees involved. In World of Warcraft, several references to the only Blizzard employee specifically named in the California lawsuit were removed. Blizzard also renamed the Overwatch character, originally Jesse McCree, after a former Blizzard employee who was fired following a California lawsuit.

That lawsuit led in part to Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard, a deal that was finalized this year. The publisher of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft saw its stock price drop significantly following allegations of a lawsuit that led to Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition.

The California lawsuit led to the departure of employees from Activision Blizzard, the resignation of Blizzard’s then-president, J. Alan Brock, and attempts were made to unionize the various studios working under the Activision Blizzard umbrella. Quality assurance testers at Raven Software and Blizzard Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions) both teamed up in the wake of the dispute. Another studio acquired by Activision Blizzard in 2022, Proletaria, was also looking to form a union. The union vote was later dropped, and workers accused Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak of “making free and fair elections impossible.”

Activision Blizzard has settled several other cases in recent years. In March 2022, Activision Blizzard settled a separate sexual harassment lawsuit with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for $18 million, and in February 2023, paid $35 million as a settlement to the SEC. ) paid. The issuer failed to properly disclose information to investors.

California’s 2021 settlement agreement is still subject to court approval and will be filed later this week, according to the New York Times.

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