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Activision Blizzard Settles One of Its Many Sexual Harassment & Discrimination Lawsuits for $18 Million

Meanwhile, CEO Bobby Kotick is set to take home $154 million this year.

Employees of the video game company, Activision Blizzard, hold a walkout and protest rally to denounce the companys response to a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit

Activision Blizzard has reached an agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to settle a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed by the agency just hours earlier.

Yes, this is a different lawsuit from the one filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing in July, and also different from the one brought by Communications Workers of America earlier this month.

The EEOC’s suit is similar, though, charging the giant video game company with, among other things, “1. Subjecting female employees to sex-based discrimination, including harassment, based on their gender. 2. Retaliating against female employees for complaining about sex-based discrimination, based on their gender. 3. Paying female employees less than male employees, based on their gender.”

Activision Blizzard has agreed to settle for $18 million, pending court approval.

That money will be put into a fund to compensate employees who experienced harassment or discrimination. Any leftover funds will be divided between charities “that advance women in the video game industry or promote awareness around harassment and gender equality issues as well as company diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives,” according to a press release from the company.

Activision Blizzard also said they will be introducing “an initiative to develop software tools and training programs to improve workplace policies and practices for employers across the technology industry.”

That all sounds very nice, but it’s undercut somewhat by a statement from the company’s CEO Bobby Kotick, which is the standard line of “There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind,” rather than acknowledging that there is, unfortunately, a place for that kind of behavior there because that kind of behavior was built into the company’s very foundation.

“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,” said Kotick, as if these experiences were outliers and not completely endemic in the company and industry as a whole.

In recent weeks, a number of prominent executives and employees have left Activision Blizzard, but Kotick is not one of them. Instead, he recently saw his “continually outsized” compensation plan approved by shareholders, and he’s set to receive $154 million in 2021.

So yes, an $18 million victim compensation fund is nice, but it’s also the equivalent of about 11% of Kotick’s salary from just one year, meaning even if Kotick were covering this fee out of pocket (which he isn’t), it would still be a relative slap on his wrist.

This is far from the end of Activision Blizzard and Kotick’s problems, though. Just last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) subpoenaed Kotick as part of a wide-reaching investigation into the company.

Among other documents, the SEC has asked for “the personnel files of six previous employees and records of CEO Kotick’s communications with executives relating to the numerous complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination levied against Activision Blizzard staff.” So hopefully, we’ll get to see just what his version of “unwavering commitment” to creating a “respectful workplace” actually looks like.

(via NPR, image: DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.