UPDATE: March 31, 2022: The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California approved Activision Blizzard's $18 million settlement, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced March 30.
In addition to monetary relief, the court decree requires Activision Blizzard to submit to unannounced audits of harassment, provide training to HR personnel, evaluate its disciplinary procedures and implement an EEO component to performance reviews for managers, supervisors and HR personnel, among other requirements.
- Activision Blizzard will pay $18 million as part of a consent decree with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, settling the agency's harassment, discrimination and retaliation allegations against the company, per a Sept. 27 announcement.
- The commission alleged in a lawsuit that Activision Blizzard employees were subjected to sexual harassment that was "severe or pervasive." The agency further alleged that the video game publisher failed to take corrective and preventative measures in response to employee complaints about the harassment and instead retaliated against workers who engaged in activity protected by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
- The complaint also alleged instances of pregnancy discrimination. Per the terms of the consent decree, Activision Blizzard has agreed to, among other items, retaining a third-party EEO consultant to review its compliance with the settlement terms as well as an internal EEO coordinator. In a statement, the company said it would upgrade policies, practices and training in addition to implementing an "expedited performance review system with a new equal opportunity focus."
News of the agreement is the first shoe to drop in the ongoing Activision Blizzard storyline since the company's announcement of investigations by two federal agencies — including EEOC — into its employment practices. The video game publisher said it was complying with a subpoena issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it has also been sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Activision Blizzard noted that the agreement is subject to court approval and that its terms will remain in effect for three years after its effective date, except as otherwise noted.
"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 said in the statement. "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."
The company also faces an unfair labor practice charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board by the Communication Workers of America union. In an email to HR Dive, CWA Secretary Treasurer Sara Steffens called the terms of the settlement "insufficient."
"Activision Blizzard is worth $72 billion — an $18 million settlement is mere pennies considering the resources available to this cash-rich corporation," Steffens said. "The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sent a message that corporate bad actors will not be held accountable for their abuse of workers. We hope enforcement staff at the SEC, NLRB, and California DFEH are paying attention and choose to truly hold Activision Blizzard accountable on behalf of the company's 10,000 workers."
The company shook up its HR leadership last month, replacing outgoing chief people officer Claudine Naughton with Disney executive Julie Hodges.