Activision Blizzard Establishes $18 Million Victim Compensation Fund
2021/09/28 at 8:57 AM
Activision Blizzard has
reached an agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC) to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination in the company’s workplace, establishing an
$18 million compensation fund
to make amends to eligible victims of harassment and gender inequality issues, with any leftover amounts divided between charities that advance women in the video game industry or promote awareness, company diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The company also announced an initiative to develop software tools and training programs to improve workplace policies and practices for employers across the technology industry.
Bobby Kotick, CEO Activision Blizzard
There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind, and I am grateful to the employees who bravely shared their experiences. I am sorry that anyone had to experience inappropriate conduct, and I remain unwavering in my commitment to make Activision Blizzard one of the world’s most inclusive, respected, and respectful workplaces.
We will continue to be vigilant in our commitment to the elimination of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. We thank the EEOC for its constructive engagement as we work to fulfill our commitments to eradicate inappropriate conduct in the workplace.
CEO Bobby Kotick's words are very similar to
second quarter investor earnings call
, which called for Activision to become a company which sets the example within the games development industry. While the
agreement is still subject to court approval
, it has been approved by the EEOC, and joins a number of additional measures being taken within Activision Blizzard to combat harassment and discrimination.
The Company will upgrade policies, practices, and training to prevent and eliminate harassment and discrimination in the workplace, including implementing an expanded performance review system with a new equal opportunity focus.
The Company will engage a neutral, third-party equal employment opportunity consultant – a non-employee who must be approved by the EEOC – who will provide ongoing oversight of the Company’s compliance with the agreement. This independent consultant’s findings will be reported directly to the EEOC and Activision Blizzard’s Board of Directors.
The Company will hire an internal Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator with relevant experience in gender discrimination, harassment, and related retaliation to assist the Company and the neutral, third-party EEO consultant with implementation of the agreement’s requirements.
Pessimists may think that the company could just decide no one is eligible, though the
goes on to specify that
the EEOC will have full and complete discretion
to determine who is an eligible claimant, as well as the amount given to them. The agreement meticulously lays out timeframes and responsibility, giving Activision 30 days to deposit the $18,000,000 into a settlement fund, 30 days to hire an EEOC approved claims administrator, another 30 days to establish a website and toll-free telephone number for submitting claims, and goes on to lay out auditing procedures and precisely how those claims will be handled. Finally, unused funds will be distributed between charitable organizations which advance women in the video games and tech industries or promote awareness of sexual harassment and gender equality issues - also subject to approval by the EEOC.
This excerpt from the agreement outlines Blizzard's commitment to establish an $18,000,000 compensation fund and appoint a claims administrator - all subject to review and approval by the EEOC.
This follows a
three year long investigation
by the EEOC, which looked into claims of discrimination against pregnant employees, paying female employees less than their male counterparts because of their gender, and retaliating against employees who complained about unfair treatment since September 2016. The
court document filed earlier today
states that employees were subjected to severe and pervasive sexual harassment, while failing to take corrective or preventative measures to end the harassment. Initially seeking a jury trial, the two parties instead reached the $18 million settlement and procedural overhauls outlined above.
It does not, however, affect the
discrimination lawsuit filed in July
by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. While it's no surprise that the two occurred within the same timeframe, they each have a different scope and are not subject to one another, with the EEOC focusing on specific claims of discrimination and retaliation and the California suit having a more broad focus on systemic sexual harassment and pay disparity. $18 million may seem like a odd number, but the EEOC has limits on the amount of damages a person can recover -
up to $300,000 per person
based on the size of their employer. The $18 million number suggests that the investigation found somewhere between 50-100 potential claimants, depending on how much compensation is awarded to each, to add up to a total of $18 million with anything not awarded given over to charities. Because this is likely around the max they would get in court anyway without Activision Blizzard being found guilty of additional or more serious charges, the settlement provides roughly the same amount of compensation (and the regulation to oversee it is handed out properly) without a long and costly court battle.
What is unclear however, is exactly how far this particular rot spreads. While the EEOC settlement doesn't specify, the California lawsuit is centered near exclusively on employees of Blizzard Entertainment (the studio), citing gross misconduct and a failure to address it by the studio's leadership. While ultimately Activision is responsible for the conduct at their sub studio, this is an institutional failure, and Activision is now quite literally paying for Blizzard's sins. It's no surprise then that most of those leaders are now gone, either seeing the writing on the wall and finding a reason to leave the company (it now appears to be no coincidence that so many high profile employees have
over the last few years these investigations have been taking place),
seemingly removed by Activision
outright. So despite a common trend for casual observers to blame Activision (the parent company) for all the evils within the industry, they ironically appear to be taking quite a few steps in the right direction toward addressing these concerns - even if several more steps remain.
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