A federal district judge has signed a consent decree approving Activision Blizzard’s $18 million settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission despite objections by California state attorneys.
Those lawyers argued that the settlement could undermine their own lawsuit against the video game company over claims of rampant sexual harassment towards current and former employees.
The settlement, which was first arranged between Activision and EEOC in September, will establish an $18 million settlement fund for any current or former ABK employee that wishes to file a claim over incidents of abuse, harassment and/or retaliation suffered while working at the video game developer.
Leftover funds would be donated to charities that provide opportunities for women in game design as well as used towards the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives which must be further developed as part of the settlement.
But by agreeing to opt-in to the settlement, claimants would waive their right to take part in any other legal action against Activision Blizzard, including an ongoing lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing that was the first to be filed against the company and which brought accusations of systemic abuse to the public eye.
Attorneys for the California DFEH filed a motion for an emergency stay of the consent decree to ensure that the federal settlement would not be used to undermine the state lawsuit, but the motion was denied.
Last summer, the DFEH lawsuit made public a sordid history of abuse and discrimination against women who worked at the company behind games like “World of Warcraft,” “Call of Duty,” and “Overwatch,” including reports that one woman committed suicide after nude pictures of her were shared by male employees.
Harassment accusations were also leveled against the company’s top developers such as former “World of Warcraft” senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi, who allegedly held court at the company’s annual fan convention BlizzCon in a hotel suite referred to as the “Cosby Suite” after Bill Cosby’s sexual assault allegations had been made public.
The EEOC settlement is significantly less than the $100 million that Riot Games, developers of best-selling games “League of Legends” and “Valorant,” put forward to settle its own class-action harassment lawsuit this past December. The settlement value was initially set at $10 million, but was raised after objections by the California DFEH.
While this settlement ends one lawsuit against Activision Blizzard and clears a hurdle for its planned acquisition by Microsoft, several more lawsuits remain. Along with the DFEH lawsuit, a class-action suit was filed by a group of shareholders against the company alleging that its negligence in handling harassment at the company has damaged its stock price. And this past week, sexual harassment attorney Lisa Bloom filed a new lawsuit on behalf of an anonymous current IT employee who accused the company of repeated sexual harassment since she was hired by the company in 2017.
TheWrap has reached out to the EEOC, DFEH and Activision Blizzard for comment.