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BlizzardSep 30, 2021 10:00 am CT

Activision Blizzard agrees to pay $18 million in sexual harassment settlement, but that’s not the end of their legal problems

Activision-Blizzard is learning the truth of what my grandmother used to say — you can take care of your problems when they’re small and manageable, or you can wait and try and pretend they don’t exist. If you try the latter, eventually you end up having to settle a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by creating an 18 million dollar fund to, and I quote the CNN article, “compensate and make amends to eligible claimants.” Keep in mind, this is while they’re still being sued by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and dealing with a complaint from the National Labor Relations Board.

Why, they barely have time to ignore their employees’ demands for a better and more safe workplace with all this going on. Oh, and then there’s the lawsuit from their own shareholders — the one that started the SEC investigation — that’s still going too. So yeah, a lot is still happening, and though settling with the EEOC won’t fix any of it, it just takes one spinning plate out of the myriad they’ve got up.

Also, let’s be honest — Ars Technica said it best when they talked about what this settlement really amounts to, and it’s basically pennies on the dollar. Activision-Blizzard makes billions of dollars annually, and this fund is supposed to apply to people affected by these issues going back to 2016 — it’s simply a sop thrown to the EEOC to get them to go away. I mean, based on that laundry list of problems that came about because allegations of harassment and discrimination were ignored or silenced for years, I can understand why they’d want to at least get one agency off their back. But this isn’t significant.

Looking over the Wowhead post about it, there’s a fair amount more to this settlement than just the fund. Some of these aspects of the settlement mirror changes made by Bungie, and they’re pretty solid. The one that really catches my attention is that the company must allow a consultant who is not an employee of Activision-Blizzard, and who is approved by and reports directly to the EEOC, as well as reporting to the Activision-Blizzard board. This non-employee will directly oversee the company in how it complies with the EEOC settlement. That’s a very big deal. It’s not Activision-Blizzard hiring a law firm known for union busting to do an internal audit — it’s someone who is not beholden to nor employed by the company.

Secondly, Activision-Blizzard is required to hire someone to work this angle from the inside, an Equal Employment Opportunity Consultant, who is to work alongside the independent overseer to ensure the company complies with the settlement. Activision-Blizzard has already made steps in that area, hiring Julie Hodges away from Disney to be their Chief People Officer. Presumably Hodges will be the one to hire the EEO Consultant to work with the independent one reporting to the EEOC itself.

Now, I am not a lawyer, but I do feel like I have to mention that in past situations when companies offered a settlement like this, they included language that might impact the other lawsuits for people who take the money from the settlement. Please read everything you sign carefully. Like my grandmother used to say, corporations are not your friends and this settlement is aimed at reducing Activision-Blizzard’s legal issues, nothing else.

Yes, my grandmother had some very specific sayings that only now I understand fully.

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