Activision Blizzard will pay $18M to settle sexual harassment lawsuit

Activision Blizzard will pay $18M to settle sexual harassment lawsuit

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A California judge today approved an $18 million settlement for gaming giant Activision Blizzard Inc. in a sexual harassment case that led to scores of employees walking out of the company in protest.

In 2021, the company, which publishes well-known titles such as “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft,” came under the spotlight as employees complained of a “frat-boy” environment where sexual harassment and sexual discrimination were pervasive. This ended with a lawsuit filed by the state of California.

“Female employees almost universally confirmed that working for defendants was akin to working in a frat house, which invariably involved male employees drinking and subjecting female employees to sexual harassment with no repercussion,” said the suit. At first, the response by the company to the allegations was poor, but later Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said all the allegations will be looked into. Later, Kotick himself was accused of being part of the problem, with 1,500 employees signing a petition for his swift removal.

That never happened, although in September last year the company agreed to an $18 million settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC spokeswoman Nicole St. Germain said today she was happy with the approval but added that Activision Blizzard must ensure that this kind of thing never happens again.

The approval today of the $18 million will mean employees who joined after Sept. 1, 2016, if eligible, will be able to claim some part of that money. That doesn’t mean the company’s troubles are over, though. Former employees are still separately suing it, as are some shareholders who have also condemned the pervasive sexual harassment.

“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,” Kotick said in a statement today. “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.”

Right now, the company is in the middle of a $68.7 billion acquisition by Microsoft Corp., which if it goes through will be the largest amount paid for an acquisition in the history of the tech industry. It’s uncertain what will happen to Kotnick if that happens, with Microsoft stating he will stay but others familiar with the matter saying he will go.

Photo: Gordon Tarpley/Wiki

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