Monday, January 24, 2022

Activision Blizzard called out to increase the creation of funds for its sexual harassment victims

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During a press conference today, a lawyer for an Activision Blizzard employee who has firsthand experience with sexual misconduct at the company said the company’s $18 million settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October is “woefully inadequate,” and called for the creation of a fund over $100 million to compensate victims of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Attorney Lisa Bloom held a press conference in front of Blizzard’s headquarters today, accompanied by Christine, an Activision Blizzard employee who detailed a harrowing series of abuses she’s personally witnessed over her four years at the company, including rude comments about her body, unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching, “alcohol-infused team events,” and invitations for casual sex with her supervisors.

She claimed that when she complained, she was informed that her coworkers were “just kidding” and that she should get over it. She was also encouraged against going to Activision Blizzard’s human resources department, and after filing a formal complaint, she was demoted and denied profit-sharing chances.

“We are here because sexual harassment victims at Activision Blizzard have been ignored,” said Bloom, who represents Christine. “They are still suffering, and it’s time that they are prioritized.”

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At least three government agencies have investigated abuses at Activision Blizzard, according to Bloom, including the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which eventually filed a lawsuit against the company for sexual harassment and other claims. In September, Activision Blizzard and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached an agreement.

“The EEOC entered into a consent decree with the company, requiring it to set up an $18 million fund to compensate victims,” Bloom said. “Given that there are hundreds of victims, I think we can all agree that the $18 million number is woefully inadequate.”

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Despite the small sum at stake—remember, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick made an estimated $150 million in 2020 and was on track to make the same in 2021 before taking a significant pay cut after the sexual misconduct scandal broke—Bloom claims Activision Blizzard has failed to meet its obligations, and a legal deadline to set up a website and name a claims administrator has already passed.

That could be due to California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filing an objection to the settlement in October, citing worries that information relevant to its state-level case could be sealed under the terms of the EEOC’s federal case. The implementation of the settlement is likely to be put on hold until the DFEH objection is resolved.

Bloom expressed gratitude for the Activision Blizzard investigations but claimed that the concerns of Activision Blizzard sexual misconduct victims have gone unheard. She called for the creation of a “streamlined, fast, and fair process” for resolving legal claims against the company to that end.

“Set up a fund over $100 million,” Bloom said. “Let victim advocates participate in setting the rules, and let victims make their cases to sympathetic claims administrators who have a history of caring about victims.”

“As we have continued to reaffirm in our recent communications, such conduct is not consistent with our standards, our expectations, and what the vast majority of our employees meet daily. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct, harassment, or retaliation of any kind. We will not tolerate any behavior that is not aligned with our values and will hold employees accountable who fail to live up to them.

“The company is committed to creating an environment we can all be proud of. We are in the process of implementing significant changes and improvements to the scope, structure, and efficiency of our compliance and human resources teams, reporting systems, and transparency into our investigation process. The safety and support of our employees, especially those who have suffered, remains our top priority.”

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