Activision Blizzard will pay a $54 million settlement to end a 2021 sex discrimination lawsuit.
As first reported by the Wall Street Journal (via VentureBeat), the publisher – which was acquired by Microsoft in October – entered into an agreement with the California Civil Rights Department to settle the case, which is related to claims of unequal compensation and promotion practices on the basis of sex from 2015-2020.
Activision Blizzard will pay as much as $46.75 million to female employees who claimed they’d received inequitable pay during this period. $9.125 million will cover attorney’s fees.
Under the agreement, which is subject to court approval, Activision Blizzard will take additional steps to help ensure fair pay and promotion practices at the company, according to the CRD.
The California CRD agreed that “no court or any independent investigation has substantiated” any claims of “systemic or widespread sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard,” nor that “Activision Blizzard senior executives ignored, condoned or tolerated a culture of systemic, harassment, retaliation or discrimination.”
The settlement also said that its investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, or its board.
The state’s expert witnesses testified that a gender pay gap existed overall, but a pay disparity was not found among employees of the same rank.
“California remains deeply committed to promoting and enforcing the civil rights of women in the workplace,” said CRD Director Kevin Kish.
“If approved by the court, this settlement agreement represents a major step forward and will bring direct relief to Activision Blizzard workers. At the California Civil Rights Department, we will continue to do our part to fight for the rights of our state’s residents.”
Activision Blizzard said in a statement: “We are gratified that we have reached an agreement with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) today, as the CRD has now announced in a press statement.
“We appreciate the importance of the issues addressed in this agreement and we are dedicated to fully implementing all the new obligations we have assumed as part of it.
“We want our employees to know that, as the agreement specifies, we are committed to ensuring fair compensation and promotion policies and practices for all our employees, and we will continue our efforts regarding inclusion of qualified candidates from underrepresented communities in outreach, recruitment, and retention.
“We are also gratified that the CRD has agreed to file an amended complaint that entirely withdraws its 2021 claims alleging widespread and systemic workplace harassment at Activision Blizzard.
“As the CRD acknowledged explicitly in the agreement, ‘CRD is filing along with a Proposed Consent Decree a Second Amended Complaint that withdraws, among other allegations and causes of action, the Fifth Cause of Action – ‘Employment Discrimination – Because of Sex – Harassment.’
“As the CRD also expressly acknowledged in the agreement, ‘no court or independent investigation has substantiated any allegations that there has been systemic or widespread sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard.’
“In addition, the CRD has acknowledged that no court or independent investigation substantiated any allegations that ‘Activision Blizzard’s Board of Directors, including its Chief Executive Officer, Robert Kotick, acted improperly with regard to the handling of any instances of workplace misconduct.’”