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Activision To Settle Discrimination Suit For $54 Million [Update]

Activision Blizzard has been the subject of scrutiny for several years now, due to its alleged “Boys’ Club” corporate culture. And now, The Wall Street Journal reports the embattled gaming company will pay roughly $54 million to settle a 2021 gender discrimination and harassment lawsuit—the same lawsuit that seemingly prompted Microsoft’s landmark $69 billion acquisition of the Call of Duty and Overwatch publisher that was finally greenlit in October after an 18-month legal battle.

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In a statement to Kotaku, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson shared further context on the settlement:

California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) sued Activision back in 2021, claiming company leadership willfully ignored employee complaints regarding pay disparity, gender- and sexuality-based harassment, and discrimination.

In a press release on Friday, the CRD noted that the game publisher will implement steps to ensure more equitable standards for compensation and advancement. “Activision Blizzard will take additional steps to help ensure fair pay and promotion practices at the company and provide monetary relief to women who were employees or contract workers in California between October 12, 2015 and December 31, 2020,” a representative for the agency wrote. The agreement is still subject to court approval.

According to a December 18 report from Inverse, Activision Blizzard will pay around $45 million into a fund to be split among women who worked for the developer between October 2015 and December 2020. An additional $10 million will be used to cover the CRD’s legal fees.

“Though I’m glad it’s finally over, it feels bittersweet that the harassment charges had to be dropped and the only claim could be for discrimination,” a former employee who will receive part of the settlement told Inverse. “The silver lining: more women won’t have to go through the horrible process of being depositioned only to have their trauma exploited and used against them by ABK lawyers.”

Activision has repeatedly denied these charges. Company representatives have also claimed that an internal investigation by its board of directors concluded that the allegations against the company were without merit. When the Microsoft acquisition closed earlier this year, longtime Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was asked to stay for another two months, through the end of 2023.

According to the Journal, which broke the story regarding the settlement, the state of California had initially estimated Activision’s liability for a far greater amount.

Citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, the Journal goes on to claim that state agencies had “initially sought an amount much greater than the settlement Riot Games paid earlier this year to settle its lawsuit.” That ruling in May 2023 touched upon similar grievances relating to workplace culture and resulted in a $100 million settlement for plaintiffs.

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