The lawsuit issued by California’s DEFH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing) has had all the dramatic turns of a television miniseries since it was filed last July, and it just keeps getting wilder — as reported by Jason Schrier of Bloomberg, Melanie Proctor, assistant chief counsel for the department, has resigned to protest how her agency boss, Chief Counsel Janette Wipper, had been abruptly fired by Governor Gavin Newsom. Both Proctor and Wipper had already stepped down from the Activision lawsuit earlier this month with no clear explanation, and now the fate of the entire lawsuit — already tenuous — has been dealt a severe blow.
The lawsuit, to catch up those unaware, concerned ActiBlizz’s “frat boy culture” and intense sexual discrimination that included awful, repugnant behavior like stealing breast milk and a so-called “Cosby Suite.” According to an email sent to staff by Proctor in recent weeks, Governor Newsom and his office had begun tampering with the case, demanding advance notice for litigation strategy and what the DEFH would do next, which, as Proctor notes, is exactly in line with Activision’s strategy. In Proctor’s words, Wipper “attempted to protect” the agency’s independence and was abruptly fired as a result. She encouraged remaining staff to keep up the good fight going forward. The governor’s office referred inquiries to the DEFH, which would not comment on “personal matters.”
Wipper appeared to be a respected, even acclaimed member of the DEFH, credited with overhauling the department into a more respectable organization and pursuing cases against companies like Tesla, Tencent, and Riot, the last of which she got a $100 million dollar settlement out of last year in regards to its own sexual discrimination practices. In comparison, ActiBlizz recently settled with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a mere $18 million — and it’s a bigger company. (Riot employs over a thousand employees with a net annual income of around $500 million. Activision Blizzard employs over TEN thousand employees with a net income of over $2.7 BILLION a year. Riot paid about a fifth of its annual income (20%) for the lawsuit, Actiblizz paid a fifth of ONE PERCENT (0.2%) of its annual income.)
At this point, the DEFH’s lawsuit’s future seems unclear. We can only hope that justice is rightly served and that action is taken to protect workers going forward.
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