Activision Blizzard agrees $18 million fund with US watchdog to “compensate and make amends”

Activision Blizzard

Earlier this week, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a body responsible for enforcing federal laws relating to workplace discrimination, filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard alleging instances where the company has “subjected a class of individuals to sexual harassment, to pregnancy discrimination, and/or to related retaliation”. Following this, Activision Blizzard has announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with the EEOC.

This agreement is “to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination in the company’s workplace,” Activision Blizzard explains in a press release. The company says that it has “committed to create an $18 million fund to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants”.

Any remaining amounts are to be divided between “contributions to non-profit organisations” aimed at “advancing women in the videogame and tech sectors or who promote awareness around sexual harassment and gender equality” and “further investments in diversity and inclusion efforts” at the company.

Also in its summary of the agreement, Activision Blizzard says it will upgrade its policies, practices, and training to eradicate “harassment and discrimination in the workplace”, bring in an EEOC-approved “neutral, third-party equal employment opportunity consultant” to oversee the company’s ongoing compliance with the agreement, and hire an internal EEO coordinator with “relevant experience in gender discrimination, harassment, and related retaliation” to assist both the company and third-party EEO consultant with implementing the agreement’s requirements.

This week’s lawsuit followed a nearly three-year-long investigation of Activision Blizzard by the EEOC. The suit notes that the company “cooperated in the investigation by providing information, documents, and testimony of individuals necessary for the investigation”. The suit also states that the “Commission engaged in extensive conciliation discussions
with Defendants, but the Commission was unable to secure through informal methods an acceptable conciliation agreement”.

“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,” Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has commented on the agreement. “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 adds that the company will “continue to be vigilant in our commitment to the elimination of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. We thank the EEOC for its constructive engagement as we work to fulfill our commitments to eradicate inappropriate conduct in the workplace.”

The agreement sum of $18 million has drawn questions from some, however, given how much money the publisher makes each year. In 2020, Activision Blizzard reported $8.1 billion in revenue, while Kotick’s salary has previously been questioned by the CtW Investment Group, a company that looks to hold “directors accountable for irresponsible and unethical corporate behaviour and excessive executive pay”.

This lawsuit and settlement are separate from other actions Activision Blizzard is currently facing, summarised below.

Activision Blizzard is facing a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California (since expanded for QA and customer service contractors) alleging years of discrimination and harassment. Since then, CEO Bobby Kotick has called the company’s initial response “tone deaf”, employees have staged a walkout, Blizzard president J Allen Brack has left, and the ABK Workers Alliance has demanded change at the company. The lawsuit is ongoing; follow the latest developments here. In September, an agency of the US federal government opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard’s response to sexual misconduct and discrimination complaints from its employees, as part of which Kotick has reportedly been subpoenaed. The company is also facing a separate unfair labour practice suit alleging “worker intimidation and union busting” filed by a workers’ union, also in September.

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