Activision Blizzard claims unverifiable harassment firings while it tries to get DFEH harassment suit dismissed
I don’t think anyone who saw the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accuse California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing of illegal ethics violations over the DFEH’s opposition to the EEOC’s settlement with Activsion Blizzard is surprised that Activision Blizzard is now using that accusation to try and get the DFEH case against them dismissed. Anybody with any familiarity with lawyers, the law, or corporations in general probably thought they’d go this way.
To sum it up, the DFEH filed an objection to the settlement the EEOC negotiated with Activision Blizzard — the one where Activision Blizzard gets to essentially indemnify itself by offering a settlement from an $18 million dollar fund that, as the Communications Workers of America later pointed out, is a pittance to a company as big as Activision Blizzard is. The DFEH argued that this would harm their case, as people who took the settlement would be signing away their rights to further action against Activision Blizzard. Then the EEOC pointed out that the two lawyers heading up the DFEH investigation had previously worked on the EEOC investigation that led to the settlement case, and that such a supposed conflict of interest was a clear violation of ethical standards as well as California law. The DFEH countered this saying that the DFEH and EEOC had agreed to share information with them — we’ll see how that shakes out.
But in the meantime, Activision Blizzard is doing what you’d expect a company in their position to do, and their lawyers are doing what any lawyers with such a situation would do, and are trying to get the entire case thrown out. Specifically, they filed for a stay which would, in their words, allow for them to investigate if there actually was a conflict of interest in this case, something the DFEH denies. I have no idea how this is going to be resolved — there’s a hearing on October 20 that could determine that. This could be upheld, or it could be dismissed, or the Judge might want to hear more from the DFEH about their claim that the EEOC agreed to share information with them, it’s all up in the air right now.
It’s interesting that Activision Blizzard has filed this motion for a stay while simultaneously telling their own staff that they fired 20 people and reprimanded 20 more. It’s certainly good to take steps to make your workplace safer, but it’s pretty hard to verify this information. They don’t name any of the employees they fired for this, for example, and this is a company that laid off 800 people in 2019 and another 190 this year — it would be pretty easy for any but the most publicized harassers to just claim they got laid off for another reason. And frankly, seeing Frances Townsend as the public face of this announcement doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that it was all handled properly. I mean, her last letter actually sparked a walkout by fed up employees.
The same employees whose specific set of four demands Activision Blizzard still hasn’t responded to, in fact.
So while I do applaud the firing of people who engage in targeted discrimination or sexual harassment, doing so anonymously just allows them to get lost in the crowd of other Activision Blizzard layoffs and leaves them able to get hired somewhere else, as well as making it impossible to verify if they even actually did anything at all. And doing so while simultaneously trying to get the DFEH case stayed and likely dismissed does not seem consistent with their statements on how seriously they take these problems.
Like we said before, this is all going to get even more messy before it’s over.
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