Update 09/27/2021 7:45 p.m. ET: Activision Blizzard just put out a press release indicating that it has reached an agreement to settle the just-revealed U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit. It states in part:
Under the agreement ... Activision Blizzard has committed to create an $18 million fund to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants. Any amounts not used for claimants will be divided between charities that advance women in the video game industry or promote awareness around harassment and gender equality issues as well as company diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, as approved by the EEOC. The agreement is subject to court approval.
The release also includes a statement from CEO Bobby Kotick:
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, and I remain unwavering in my commitment to make Activision Blizzard one of the world’s most inclusive, respected, and respectful workplaces.
Kotick, of course, is receiving effective compensation of $154 million in 2021, meaning he could easily cover the $18 million cost of the EEOC lawsuit settlement many times over.
The original story follows.
Another federal agency, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), is now suing Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher Activision Blizzard.
Newly released court docs shed light on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint which was referenced last week by CEO Bobby Kotick in a press release to investors. This new EEOC complaint is focused on alleged gender-based discrimination and harassment at Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s largest video game publishers, and follows last week’s news that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now investigating the company and its CEO.
Last week it became publicly known that the EEOC was investigatingActivision Blizzard in some capacity thanks to Kotick divulging that the company “continues to productively engage with regulators,” including the EEOC, in a press release for investors. This release was posted in response to a different, wide-reaching investigation being run by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The publisher and even Kotick himself have been subpoenaed as a result of that ongoing legal investigation.
The documents released today confirm that the EEOC is indeed suing the games publisher and associated parties over multiple allegations of gender-based discrimination and harassment. According to the court documents, Activision Blizzard and King Games are directly named in the lawsuit as well as 10 currently unnamed individuals who likely either work or have worked at the two companies. The EEOC notes it may amend the document to name these currently unknown individuals at a later date.
As spotted by The Verge, the EEOC’s complaint indicates that it notified Activision Blizzard of its findings on June 15th. But it turns out it began its investigation all the way back in September 2018. What followed were “extensive conciliation discussions” with Activision. But the EEOC wasn’t able to secure any sort of “acceptable conciliation agreement” through these more “informal methods,” so now it’s suing and is seeking a jury trial over the allegations uncovered during its investigation.
This is just the latest in a series of legal problems facing the large publisher.
Activision Blizzard’s public legal trouble started back in July when it was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after a years-long investigation turned up stories of multiple women suffering ongoing harassment and abuse while working at the company. This disclosure has led to multiple execs apologizing or even leaving the embattled publisher. At the same time, Blizzard games which contain references to the names of alleged abusers are being scrubbed by devs to remove those references from the live games.
Investors filed a second lawsuit against the publisher in August, that one focused on the timing of when Activision Blizzard disclosed its ongoing problems with sexual harassment and discrimination.
The ongoing fallout from the California lawsuit, and more recent legal complaints, has led to current employees walking out, more stories of workplace abuse becoming public, players and streamers boycotting games like World of Warcraft, and more high-level employees stepping away from the company, such as Overwatch 2's executive producer.
In that press release to investors posted on September 21, in which Kotick first mentioned an incoming EEOC complaint, Kotick said that the company “continues to work with regulators on addressing and resolving workplace complaints it has received.” Meanwhile, California has accused the publisher of shredding evidence of abuse and of not cooperating with the investigation.