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What just happened? This week the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a complaint against Activision Blizzard for alleged employment discrimination and sexual harassment. It is only the latest group within the US government to do so after the company was accused of being host to a "frat boy" culture this past summer. On the same day, Activision Blizzard reached an agreement on an $18 million settlement.
The complaint alleges that employees within Activision Blizzard have been subject to employment and pay discrimination based on gender, pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation from the company for complaining about these things.
"Employees were subjected sexual harassment that was severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment," the complaint reads. "The conduct was unwelcome and adversely affected the employees. The Defendants knew or should have known of the sexual harassment of the adversely affected employees."
The complaint goes on to say that the company failed to make changes in response to complaints. The EEOC started investigating Activision Blizzard in 2018, and the harassment allegedly began in 2016.
So far this year, Activision Blizzard has come under scrutiny from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Communications Workers of America, and the Securities and Exchange Commission based on these same allegations. Since then, the president of Blizzard has left the company. So did multiple Blizzard game designers and the company's chief legal officer. These events may even be a factor in Blizzard's significant drop in player numbers and popularity on Twitch.
Activision Blizzard announced its agreement with the commission on the same day that the EEOC filed the complaint. An investor press release said it would commit $18 million to compensating the victims and to initiatives that support women in the video game industry. The courts and the EEOC must approve those commitments.
On top of that, Activision Blizzard said it would invest in training programs and software tools to help improve workplaces in the industry. It also said it would expand its performance review programs with an equal opportunity focus to prevent harassment. It plans to start oversight and assessments of its training programs, investigation policies, and disciplinary framework while sending such reviews to the board of directors and the EEOC.
"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," said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. "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."