California Fails to Block EEOC Sexual Harassment Settlement With Video Game Maker

Video game company Activision Blizzard has faced widespread accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination. Both the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing have brought claims against the company. (Harassment and discrimination laws in California are more robust than their federal counterparts.) Activision also faces individual lawsuits by female employees.

Last week, a federal judge approved a consent decree and settlement in the EEOC case based on these allegations. Activision was not required to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which sets aside $18 million for affected employees. California sought to intervene in this case, but the trial court judge denied its request, pointing out that the state and individual employees still could reach separate settlements with the video game company. The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay the federal case as California appealed the denial.

The state sought to intervene because it felt that the $18 million settlement failed to hold the company adequately accountable. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing said that the modest settlement would undermine the mission and reputation of the EEOC. Moreover, California has said that Activision employees who receive funds through the settlement in the federal case cannot participate in the state case. The settlement thus might allow Activision to limit its losses in that case and overall.

This is not the first time that California has sought to maximize a settlement award involving sexual harassment in the video game industry. The state previously intervened successfully in a class action against video game publisher Riot Games, opposing a $10 million settlement in that case. Its intervention resulted in a settlement 10 times greater than the original amount.

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