Activision’s Great Deal

Activision Blizzard, Inc., the publisher of popular video games, allegedly tolerated a “frat boy” culture for years.

California’s Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit in 2021 alleging Activision executives knew about and failed to stop pervasive sexual harassment and then retaliated against women who complained.

But that lawsuit was effectively blitzed by an $18 million settlement approved this week by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer.

The settlement between Activision and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires Activision to pay $18 million and to hire a neutral equal opportunity consultant.

Activision, a Santa Monica company that publishes games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, earned about $8.8 billion dollars in 2021. It is ranked #373 on the Fortune 1000 Revenue Rank. The settlement amount, $18 million, is approximately 0.02 percent of the company’s annual earnings.

An $18 million settlement is a mere nuisance to the biggest producer of video games in the world. It is the proverbial slap on the wrist.

For example, a Los Angeles County jury assessed a $58.2 million verdict against entertainment executive Alki David of Hologram USA, Inc. for a sexual abuse of a female production assistant in 2019.

Judge Fischer said any claimant to the EEOC settlement must waive their right to pursue the DFEH lawsuit. So, it’s a bird in the hand kind of thing. Take the money now or take a chance (however small) of getting a higher amount in the future.

It remains to be seen whether the DFEH will proceed.

California Juries

California juries are known for returning large verdicts in civil rights cases. A California jury could dent Activision’s bottom line and punish it for tolerating years of illegal discrimination against women that resulted in a trail of trauma and wrecked lives.

So why did the EEOC block the DFEH from vigorously pursing a lawsuit against Activision, which that allegedly actively tolerated discrimination for years? Why did the EEOC insist upon a settlement that constitutes chump change for Activision?

The EEOC says its mission is to remedy unlawful employment discrimination but some would say the EEOC increasingly runs interference for wealthy companies like Activision by disposing of valid discrimination claims on the cheap.

The EEOC filed a grand total of 124 lawsuits in 2021. The agency has adopted a strategy of litigation avoidance in favor of EEOC-sponsored mediation between discriminatory employers and their victims.

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