The California Civil Rights Department is Not Playing Games: $50 Million Settlement with Activision Blizzard for Female Employees

The California Civil Rights Department is Not Playing Games: $50 Million Settlement with Activision Blizzard for Female Employees

In 2021, after a two-year investigation, the California Civil Rights Department filed suit against Activision Blizzard, seeking relief on behalf of the State of California and a class of female employees and contract workers who allegedly experienced sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination at the workplace.[i] Activision Blizzard Inc. is a video game company headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and it is known for popular video games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, among others.[ii] Despite its diverse customer base, the complaint alleged only 20% of Activision Blizzard’s employees were female, and its executive and top officers were all white and male.[iii] Based on the investigation conducted by California Civil Rights Department, women were rarely given the opportunity rise to the executive level, and even if they did, their salaries were lower than those of their male counterparts.

The California Civil Rights Department’s investigation into plaintiffs’ claims against Activision Blizzard revealed sufficient evidence of misconduct and unfair and cruel treatment of both female employees and contract workers in California between October 12, 2015 and December 31, 2020.[iv] Based on their investigation, the California Civil Rights Department filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the female employees and female contract workers.

In the lawsuit, the California Civil Rights Department alleged Activision Blizzard was in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act and Fair Employment and Housing Act.[v] According to the California Civil Rights Department, Activision Blizzard’s management knowingly discriminated against female employees and female contract workers by sexually harassing them, denying them promotion opportunities, and paying them less than men who were performing substantially similar services.[vi]

On December 15, 2023, the California Civil Rights Department and Activision Blizzard reached an approximately $50-million-dollar settlement agreement to compensate plaintiffs and all of the class members for the discriminatory treatment they experienced.[vii] The settlement agreement has not been approved by the court yet. Once approved, Activision Blizzard will be required to take action to ensure female employees and female contract workers receive a fair pay, ensure fair and gender neutral promotion practices are in place, and provide monetary relief to all those female employees and contract workers who worked at Activision Blizzard from October 2015 until December 2021.[viii]

This lawsuit should remind employers to promote equality in the workplace. It is important to have policies which address discrimination and harassment. These policies are a critical step in ensuring gender equality and closing the gender pay gap.[ix]

 

 

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[i] Civil Rights Department Announces Settlement Agreement to Resolve Employment Discrimination and Equal Pay Lawsuit Against Activision Blizzard, Civil Rights Department State of California, December 15, 2023, https://calcivilrights.ca.gov/2023/12/15/civil-rights-department-announces-settlement-agreement-to-resolve-employment-discrimination-and-equal-pay-lawsuit-against-activision-blizzard/

[ii] California Civil Rights Department v. Activision Blizzard Inc. et al., (2021) Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, 21STCV26571.

[iii] https://calcivilrights.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2022/11/CRD-v-Activision-Blizzard-First-Amended-Complaint.pdf

[iv] Parvini, Sarah and Carras Christi, Activision Blizzard to pay roughly $50 million in California discrimination case settlement, Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2023-12-15/activision-to-pay-50-million-settlement-in-california-case

[v] https://calcivilrights.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2022/11/CRD-v-Activision-Blizzard-First-Amended-Complaint.pdf

[vi] Civil Rights Department Announces Settlement Agreement to Resolve Employment Discrimination and Equal Pay Lawsuit Against Activision Blizzard, Civil Rights Department State of California, December 15, 2023, https://calcivilrights.ca.gov/2023/12/15/civil-rights-department-announces-settlement-agreement-to-resolve-employment-discrimination-and-equal-pay-lawsuit-against-activision-blizzard/

[vii] Parvini, Sarah and Carras Christi, Activision Blizzard to pay roughly $50 million in California discrimination case settlement, Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2023-12-15/activision-to-pay-50-million-settlement-in-california-case

[viii] Civil Rights Department Announces Settlement Agreement to Resolve Employment Discrimination and Equal Pay Lawsuit Against Activision Blizzard, Civil Rights Department State of California, December 15, 2023, https://calcivilrights.ca.gov/2023/12/15/civil-rights-department-announces-settlement-agreement-to-resolve-employment-discrimination-and-equal-pay-lawsuit-against-activision-blizzard/

[ix] Kochhar, Rakesh, The Enduring Grip of the Gender Pay Gap, Pew Research Center, March 1, 2023, https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/03/01/the-enduring-grip-of-the-gender-pay-gap/#:~:text=The%20gender%20pay%20gap%20%E2%80%93%20the,every%20dollar%20earned%20by%20men.