US state and federal watchdogs are now fighting over Activision Blizzard lawsuits

Activision Blizzard

Two different US employment watchdog groups have sued Activision Blizzard over allegations of discrimination and harassment at the company. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed suit in July, and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought a separate suit in September. Activision Blizzard and the EEOC reached an $18 million settlement soon after, which has not yet been finalised – and now the DFEH is raising an objection, saying that this settlement would hurt its own case.

In its intervention (filed on October 6 and brought to public attention by journalist Stephen Totilo), the DFEH says that the proposed settlement “contains provisions sanctioning the effective destruction and/or tampering of evidence critical to the DFEH’s case, such as personnel files and other documents referencing sexual harassment, retailation, and discrimination.”

On October 8, the EEOC filed its own objection (brought to public attention by the Opening Arguments podcast), alleging that two key lawyers in its own investigation of Activision Blizzard left to join the DFEH investigation.

The EEOC claims that this is a violation of California’s Rules of Professional Conduct, and as a result requests that the court “disallow DFEH’s intervention motion and bar DFEH counsel from providing further work product or advice to current counsel.”

In simpler terms, California says the federal settlement with Activision Blizzard will hurt its own case against the company. The federal body says the California investigators have violated professional conduct rules by jumping ship between the two groups.

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. In another, separate development, Activision Blizzard reached an agreement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination”.

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