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Activision Blizzard to pay out three days of annual profit to settle sex discrimination case

CEO so 'sorry' after deal with US watchdog

Activision Blizzard will cough up $18m to settle a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – which accused the California games giant of fostering an internal culture toxic to women staff.

The US government's workplace watchdog claimed Activision subjected female and pregnant employees to “sex-based discrimination, including harassment,” retaliated against them if they complained, and paid them less than their male colleagues. It sued the biz [PDF] on Monday after a three-year probe.

Activision promptly responded by agreeing to settle the case [PDF]; it will pay $18m to current and former workers who have been or were employed since 2016 and covered by the EEOC’s claims. The corporation also promised to review its internal policies and provide training for managers, HR staff, and others to clamp down on discrimination and harassment.

To put that amount in context, the Call of Duty giant made a $2.2bn profit last year, or about $6m a day, according to its financial results.

“There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind, and I am grateful to the employees who bravely shared their experiences,” Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick said in a canned statement.

“I am sorry that anyone had to experience inappropriate conduct, and I remain unwavering in my commitment to make Activision Blizzard one of the world’s most inclusive, respected, and respectful workplaces. We thank the EEOC for its constructive engagement as we work to fulfill our commitments to eradicate inappropriate conduct in the workplace.”

The Overwatch titan is facing a barrage of litigation. California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the games biz in July for fostering a “frat boy” work culture. The US National Labor Relations Board is looking into a complaint from the Communications Workers of America Union, which accused Activision of intimidating staff and illegally obstructing their attempts to form a union.

To top it all off, America's financial watchdog, the SEC, has launched its own investigation into whether the company reported claims of sexual discrimination and harassment to its investors before they were exposed publicly.

Kotick and other senior staff have been subpoenaed. Activision bigwig Allen Brack, its head of HR, and its chief legal officer have all ejected. The Blizzard studio is now co-led by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra.

Activision Blizzard is today known for titles from Crash Bandicoot to World of Warcraft. Its stock price rose slightly after the EEOC settlement was announced, and is trading at $76.33 currently. ®

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