In news that could easily be framed as the end of a roller coaster of abhorrence but in actuality is merely another bump in its tracks, Activision Blizzard has settled a sexual harrassment lawsuit with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Emphasis on the “a.” This is not the sole sexual harassment lawsuit the company is currently embroiled in, nor arguably THE lawsuit, as the main one still on the table (filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing) is the one that kicked off the quagmire of allegations last July. The DFEH and the EEOC ultimately couldn’t agree on how to proceed with the lawsuit jointly, and disputed about issues like settlement fees last year.
The EEOC lawsuit is being settled for $18 million, which will create a settlement fund to compensate claimants, bolster workplace practices to prevent harassment, and work with a third-party EEOC-picked consultant for equal employment opportunity. The court has deemed this to be a reasonable settlement and it seems likely to pass — do keep in mind, however, that while $18 million seems like a large number (it’s the second largest settlement the EEOC has ever negotiated), it’s not so much a drop in the bucket but an atom in a canyon. Activision Blizzard made $8.8 billion in 2021 alone, meaning that $18 million accounts for a meager 0.2% (one fifth of one percent) of their earnings for only one year. After years and years of a destructive and toxic work culture.
Of course, the DFEH lawsuit is still ongoing, along with two individual lawsuits (one from a Jane Doe and another from the family of an ActiBlizz employee who committed suicide). However, due to the EEOC suit being federal and the DFEH suit being at the state level, the settlement of the former could derail the latter because of federal policy superseding state policy in many cases. “It’s a clear win for Activision Blizzard the company. They lose a small amount and they are effectively undercutting the state law proceedings where the state agency was far more aggressive,” said P. Andrew Torrez, law firm owner and host of the Opening Arguments podcast. While multiple parties oppose the settlement on the grounds of finding the amount of cash inadequate, it appears it’s a done deal. Activision Blizzard will have to comply over the next three years or face monetary relief from the EEOC.
What does this mean for the other lawsuits? While we can’t say that definitively, it appears to be a victory for ActiBlizz’s side. What that means for justice, for the affected families, and the ongoing laborers even now after the Microsoft acquisition attempting to unionize, I cannot say, but my heart will always be with them.
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