Activision Blizzard has reached a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The terms of the agreement dictate that the studio must make an $18 million fund available for harassment victims.
What does this agreement between Activision Blizzard and the EEOC entail?
This comes as part of several ongoing legal investigations into toxic workplace culture at Activision Blizzard. The EEOC's specific complaints, which you can read right here, pertain to sexual harassment, sex discrimination on grounds of pregnancy, and retaliation (a term relating to an employer taking adverse or punitive action against an employee engaging in behavior protected by law). In the EEOC's original lawsuit, the commission demands Activision Blizzard revamp its workplace culture to protect employees against sexual harassment, and also to provide them with compensation.
Following this lawsuit, Activision Blizzard announced that it has reached a settlement with the EEOC. The studio says it's creating an $18 million fund that will be available for victims of sexual harassment and discrimination. Anything that isn't used by claimants of the fund will go directly to "charities that advance women in the video game industry" as well as "company diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives", which Activision Blizzard says has been "approved by the EEOC". In addition to these measures, Activision Blizzard says it's also introducing a new performance review system with a focus on equal opportunity, as well as a new third-party "equal opportunity consultant" who will report their findings to the studio's Board of Directors.
Where did this all begin for Activision Blizzard?
Back in July, Activision Blizzard was sued by California's DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing). Employees held walkouts to protest the company's behavior, with further investigations being carried out by a shareholder firm and a labor union. Activision Blizzard found itself in further trouble when the California DFEH stepped up its lawsuit earlier this month, alleging that Activision Blizzard shredded important documents that would have provided evidence of the company's wrongdoing. The Securities Exchange Commission is also involved, so it's clear that Activision Blizzard isn't getting off the hook for this anytime soon.
The Activision Blizzard situation is part of a wider problem within the industry. Fellow gaming giant Ubisoft has also been subject to lawsuits and accusations of toxic workplace culture, and reports suggest that since those allegations first surfaced, the culture at the company hasn't improved much at all. Reports have also been circulating regarding Gone Home and Tacoma developer Fullbright's toxic work environment, with employees anonymously reporting that co-founder Steve Gaynor (who has since transitioned to a writing role) exhibited controlling behavior and publicly belittled women in the company on a regular basis. As more and more stories of sexual harassment and discrimination in the gaming industry emerge, it's likely more studios will come under the microscope in the near future.
Do you think Activision Blizzard's promises are sufficient to right its wrongs? Let us know in the comments below!