Embattled game company Activision Blizzard has settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over its corporate culture. The suit, which was filed on Monday, alleges “sex-based discrimination, including harassment” in the workplace, as well as retaliation “for complaining about sex-based discrimination.”
Activision Blizzard will create an $18 million fund to compensate claimants. Undistributed money will go to charities and in-house initiatives that promote diversity in the gaming industry and awareness of gender-based discrimination.
The company outlined the main terms of the settlement in an online statement. In addition to the fund, it will “upgrade policies, practices, and training to prevent and eliminate harassment and discrimination in the workplace.” An independent EEO consultant and in-house EEO coordinator will monitor its compliance.
The EEOC’s suit caps a three-year investigation by the agency. It notified Activision Blizzard of its findings on June 15, then engaged in discussions with the company, which opted to settle.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because the game company was hit with a similar lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in July. That suit accused Activision Blizzard of “violations of the state’s civil rights and equal pay laws”, describing its workplace, particularly at subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment, as a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”
The company was initially defiant, saying it would fight the charges. Employees condemned this reaction and hundreds staged a walkout in protest, voicing their support for the allegations in the suit. CEO Bobby Kotick then conceded that the company’s response had been “tone deaf.” Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack was among a number of executives who stepped down as the scandal unfolded.
That’s not all. Activision Blizzard is also facing lawsuits from investors, who say the company intentionally failed to disclose its harassment and discrimination issues, and the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, which alleges that the company used coercive tactics against employees campaigning to improve working conditions.
Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company’s handling of employment issues, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Commenting on the settlement with the EEOC, Kotick said:
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.
Based in Santa Monica, California, Activision Blizzard has around 9,500 employees. Its franchises include the hugely popular World of Warcraft and Call of Duty games. It is the largest game publisher in the U.S. by market capitalization.