Judge Prepared to Approve Activision Blizzard's $18 Million Settlement with the EEOC
One of Activision Blizzard's ongoing legal battles may be coming to a close. As
reported by Bloomberg Law
, Judge Dale S. Fischer of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California said that she was prepared to approve Activision Blizzard's
$18 million settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC), stating that she was "satisfied that both the monetary relief and the nonmonetary provisions are fair, reasonable, and adequate."
$18 Million SettlementDFEH Files InterventionIntervention Denied
Last December, Judge Fischer denied the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's (DFEH)
attempt to intervene in the settlement
, scolding both agencies for their inappropriate public disputes over the last several months. While
the state agency claimed
that the settlement would hurt their own case due to directing Activision to destroy evidence, the EEOC argued that the company was only required to expunge the records of employees who received settlements in order to protect them from whistleblower discrimination and that all appropriate records would still need to be maintained.
It appears the judge agreed with the EEOC in her statement today, calling many of the state's arguments "simply inaccurate, based on speculation, or otherwise address issues that the DFEH should not be concerned with.” In response to this news, Activision Blizzard unsurprisingly
told The Washington Post
that they were pleased by the outcome, and that "Our goal has always been to provide immediate and meaningful compensation to eligible employees who choose to participate and to continue workplace improvements that make Activision Blizzard a model for our industry.”
Another hearing is scheduled for March 29th to further discuss
the proposed settlement
, which will directs Activision Blizzard to takes a number of regulatory measures in addition to establishing the monetary fund for victims of sexual 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.
The settlement further specifies that
the EEOC will have full and complete discretion
to determine who is an eligible claimant, as well as the amount given to them. Once formally signed, Activision Blizzard will have 30 days to deposit the $18,000,000 into a dedicated settlement fund and hire an EEOC approved claims administrator, with 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, any 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.
How much this decision will impact the DFEH's case remains to be seen, as this settlement presents claimants with a choice between receiving more immediate compensation from the EEOC against the the potential for a payout from the DFEH when and if their case succeeds, however they cannot do both as one makes them ineligible from the other. This could take some time though, as the Post further reported DFEH spokesperson Fahizah Alim as saying that "the DFEH will continue to vigorously prosecute its action against Activision in California state court," and that "the Court has set a trial date in February 2023."
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