Activision Blizzard’s $18 million settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been approved by the federal court.
In September of last year, the EEOC filed a complaint against Activision Blizzard, alleging the company was responsible for employees facing sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and related retaliation. A settlement figure of $18 million was agreed upon.
At the time, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which also has a lawsuit against the company, issued a formal objection to the settlement, noting it could cause irreparable harm to its own ongoing legal proceedings.
However, today the federal court has allowed the settlement to go through, and there are some conditions that need to be met as part of the settlement that are not monetary.
As part of the agreement with the EEOC, Activision has agreed to not only create an $18 million fund to compensate eligible claimants, but to also continue enhancing policies, practices, and training to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and by implementing an expanded performance-review system.
The firm must also engage a neutral, third-party equal employment opportunity consultant who must be approved by the EEOC. This person will provide ongoing oversight of the company’s compliance with the agreement and their findings will be reported directly to the EEOC and Activision Blizzard’s Board of Directors.
Activision Blizzard was also required to hire an equal employment opportunity coordinator with relevant experience in gender discrimination, harassment, and related retaliation to assist the company as part of the settlement. The company hired Stacy Jackson for this position. Jackson started with the company on March 16.
“The agreement we reached with the EEOC last year reflected our unwavering commitment to ensure a safe and equitable working environment for all employees,” said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. “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.
"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. We are gratified that the federal court that reviewed our settlement with the EEOC is finding that it is fair, reasonable, adequate, and advances the public interest.
"The approval is a vital step in our journey to ensuring that everyone at Activision Blizzard always feels safe, heard, and empowered. We hope the court’s findings – including its view that many of the objections raised about our settlement were inaccurate and speculative – will dispel any confusion that may exist. With all of the terms of the settlement reviewed and approved, we can move forward,” Kotick concluded.
Since the various allegations of sexism, harassment, and discrimination came to light over the suit brought against it by the state of California, the company has since developed a "zero-tolerance policy" on harassment and retaliation, quadrupled the size of its Ethics and Compliance team, significantly increased investment in related training, enhanced transparency with new reporting on pay equity and diversity representation, and contributed $1 million to Women in Games International to advance the success of women in the global games industry.
The firm has also waived required arbitration for individual sexual harassment and discrimination claims, launched a new tool that tracks–for every single hire–data on the representation and presence of women and underrepresented ethnic group candidates at the applicant, interview, and hiring stages, developed stricter alcohol policies company-wide due to reports of rampant partying, recently launched a feedback program which facilitated more than 90% of managers receiving personal feedback, and it launched a paid training program designed to teach participants game development and prepare program participants for engineering roles.
Back in October 2021, Activision set a goal of increasing the representation of women and non-binary employees by 50% in the next five years. It also committed to investing $250 million over the next 10 years in initiatives that foster expanded opportunities in gaming and technology for under-represented communities.
The settlement with the EEOC is just the latest bit of news for the company, which has seen many milestones in this case. Sice California brought the first suit against the company, CEO Bobby Kotick was subpoenaed as the SEC investigated Activision Blizzard over workplace misconduct to shareholders suing the company for hiding the sexual harassment probe before it went mainstream. Most recently, a new lawsuit was been filed against the firm by a current employee claiming to have faced discrimination and experienced sexual harassment.