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Activision Blizzard Agrees to $54 million Gender Discrimination Settlement

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Activision Blizzard and the State of California have agreed that the video game maker will pay $54 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit.

Los Angeles, CAActivision Blizzard has agreed to pay over $50 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by California's civil rights agency. Female employees of the video game maker claimed they were constantly faced with sexual harassment, and the company employed few women in leadership roles. If they were in leadership roles, they earned less salary, incentive pay and total compensation than their male peers.

According to the California labor lawsuit, one allegation contends that “the manager commented that they could not risk promoting her as she might get pregnant and like being a mom,” and another: “Employees were allegedly discouraged from complaining as human resource personnel were known to be close to alleged harassers.” Since the lawsuit was made public, several former Blizzard employees corroborated the allegations and detailed on social media some of the events below, including “cube crawls”.

Activision Blizzard Lawsuit

Following a two-year investigation conducted by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (now called the California Civil Rights Department), the state concluded that Activision “fostered a pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace” and that female employees were “subjected to constant sexual harassment.” The state filed the Activision discrimination lawsuit in July 2021. Lurid details of the lawsuit were published by The Verge, including the following:

“Cube crawls” in Defendants’ offices were common and male employees proudly came into work hungover. Similarly, male employees would play video games during work, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and make numerous jokes about rape.

As a product of this “frat boy” culture, women were subjected to numerous sexual comments and advances, groping and unwanted physical touching, and other forms of harassment. A female employee noted that random male employees would approach her on Defendants’ work site and comment on her breasts. Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior. This behavior was known to supervisors and indeed encouraged by them, including a male supervisor openly encouraging a male subordinate to “buy” a prostitute to cure his bad mood.

Alex Afrasiabi, the former Senior Creative Director of World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment… was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the “Crosby Suite” after alleged rapist Bill Crosby.”

The Activision Blizzard Settlement

The Civil Rights Department announced on December 13th that the $54 million settlement will provide monetary relief to women who were employees or contract workers in California between October 12, 2015 and December 31, 2020. The settlement agreement will require Activision Blizzard to:
  • Pay approximately $54,875,000 to cover direct relief to workers and litigation costs. Of the total, approximately $45,750,000 will go to a settlement fund dedicated to compensating workers.
  • Distribute any excess settlement funds to charitable organizations focused on advancing women in the video game and technology industries or promoting awareness around gender equality issues in the workplace. 
  • Retain an independent consultant to evaluate and make recommendations regarding Activision Blizzard’s compensation and promotion policies and training materials.
  • Continue its efforts regarding inclusion of qualified candidates from underrepresented communities in outreach, recruitment, and retention.

Gender Discrimination Pervasive

In December 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported that Riot Games, a Los Angeles game studio which makes the popular “League of Legends” game and is owned by the Chinese technology giant Tencent, agreed to pay out at least $10 million to about 1,000 women who worked at the company in the last five years as part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit over alleged gender discrimination. And in July 2020, Bloomberg wrote that the Ubisoft Family was accused of mishandling sexual misconduct claims. It detailed inappropriate behavior by top executives and managers, and chief creative officer Serge Hascoët held meetings at strip clubs. And not only women were discriminated against: According to Bloomberg, “In 2015 a group of staff in Sofia, Bulgaria, were watching a trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens featuring the actor John Boyega, who’s Black. “People just collectively went, ‘Hey, look, it’s a monkey,’” says Fey Vercuiel, a former designer on the team.”

Microsoft closed its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard in October of this year. On December 20, CNBC reported that CEO Bobby Kotick will step down from his role as head of the video game company on Dec. 29. According to an internal memo, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said, “At the leadership level, these changes will provide the clarity and accountability that is necessary to achieve our ambitious goals and foster a culture that is welcoming, empowering, and committed to Gaming for Everyone.”


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