Video Game Company Settles Claims of Sexual Harassment and Employment Discrimination

Last week, Activision Blizzard and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agreed to an $18 million settlement. Activision Blizzard is a video game maker that is perhaps best known for the MMORPG World of Warcraft, the first-person shooter game Call of Duty, and the match-three puzzle game Candy Crush. The EEOC is the federal government agency that enforces the rights of employees to be free from discrimination in the workplace. It had brought a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard in a federal court in California, based on claims of sexual harassment and discrimination. Although Activision Blizzard did not formally admit any misconduct, it agreed to pay compensation to alleged victims of harassment and discrimination in its workforce.

The lawsuit claimed that Activision Blizzard turned a blind eye to reports of sexual harassment. In addition, Activision Blizzard allegedly discriminated against pregnant women in its workforce. It also illegally retaliated against employees who reported harassment or discrimination by terminating them. These allegations echoed findings by state officials, who found that Activision Blizzard assigned female employees to lesser positions than similarly qualified male employees and paid women less than men for similar work. The investigation at the state level uncovered a workplace culture in which incidents of physical and verbal sexual harassment were apparently widespread and tolerated. Earlier this summer, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing also sued the video game maker on similar grounds to those stated in the EEOC lawsuit.

In addition to paying compensation to qualified employees, Activision Blizzard pledged to improve its policies and practices. Among other steps, it has hired a new head of human resources. Recognizing that sexism and harassment have been pervasive in the tech industry, Activision Blizzard also announced that it plans to provide software tools and training programs to help other tech companies improve their workplace culture.

However, the video game maker faces additional legal issues related to the alleged discrimination and harassment in its workplace. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is investigating a complaint filed by a labor union, which alleges that Activision Blizzard tried to dissuade employees from discussing wages, hours, and work conditions. (This violates federal labor law.) Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has launched an investigation into what Activision Blizzard told investors about the discrimination and harassment claims. If they were not properly disclosed, the board of directors and other leaders of the company could face repercussions. Activision Blizzard shareholders filed a lawsuit on similar grounds in August. The complaint alleged that the video game maker did not disclose the California investigation and the potential problems in its workplace.

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