US employment watchdog sues Activision Blizzard over discrimination claims

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued Activision Blizzard over its allegedly pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination. The lawsuit, filed Monday in California court, is based on a three-year EEOC investigation that included cooperation from the games publisher. It seeks a court order requiring the company to cease unlawful behavior and pay restitution to employees who suffered discrimination or retaliation.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Activision Blizzard was in settlement talks with the EEOC, and the company said in a statement that it was “actively engaged in continued discussions with the EEOC.” In its complaint, the EEOC says it notified the company of its findings on June 15th after launching an investigation in September of 2018, then engaged in “extensive conciliation discussions” with Activision Blizzard. But “the Commission was unable to secure through informal methods an acceptable conciliation agreement,” it notes. The lawsuit is now seeking a jury trial over the allegations.

This is the latest in several legal battles for Activision Blizzard, which had previously been sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the company’s investors, and the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees. The Journal also reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company.

The lawsuits — as well as stories from employees at Activision Blizzard — paint a picture of a company with a “frat house” atmosphere where female employees were verbally and physically harassed without consequence. Multiple executives, including Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, have departed the company in the wake of the revelations, and the company has updated elements of its games Overwatch and World of Warcraft to remove references to employees accused of harassment or other offending behavior.

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