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Activision Blizzard wants California lawsuit paused due to alleged ethics violation

Protest at Activision Blizzard
(Image credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Activision Blizzard has filed a motion to temporarily halt proceedings in the lawsuit filed against it in July by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The publisher wants a time-out to collect evidence in relation to a surprising allegation against the DFEH that could give the company an advantage when the case proceeds.

The allegation, made last week, doesn't primarily have to do with the content of the DFEH lawsuit, which claims that Activision Blizzard has for years harbored a culture of sexism and harassment. Rather, it has to do with the lawyers who filed the suit. 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a US federal agency that recently proposed a settlement with Activision Blizzard over similar claims, the DFEH lawyers behind California's suit used to work for them, and actually investigated Activision Blizzard on the federal level before taking up the case again in California, where they objected to the EEOC's settlement terms. Our article from last week goes into more detail about why the agencies are in conflict, but the short of it is that you're not allowed to do that.

Activision Blizzard, a public company with a market capitalization of $60 billion, would surely be violating some natural law if it passed up the opportunity to improve its tactical position in the suit, and wants to see the evidence cited by the EEOC.

Separately, the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher wants the case to be designated as "complex." Ironically, "complex" is one of the few legal terms that is simple to define: It literally means that Activision Blizzard wants the case moved to a court that's set up to handle the really tricky ones.

Aside from the alleged DFEH ethics violation, Activision alleges that the California bureau has made other errors which complicate the case, including destroying information. The DFEH has also accused Activision Blizzard of destroying information, and has likewise requested that the case be designated as complex.

"We look forward to resolving the case with the DFEH fairly in an appropriate court," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told PC Gamer. 

Activision Blizzard is also being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over its handling of July's allegations. Today, the company published a recent internal email in which executive VP of corporate affairs Fran Townsend described a vision for workplace improvement. The statement noted that in recent months more than 20 employees have "exited" due to investigations into HR reports, and another 20-plus "faced other types of disciplinary action."

At the time of writing, the DFEH has not responded to a request for comment, but we'll update this article if the California agency makes a statement. 

Tyler Wilde

Tyler has spent over 1,200 hours playing Rocket League, and slightly fewer nitpicking the PC Gamer style guide. His primary news beat is game stores: Steam, Epic, and whatever launcher squeezes into our taskbars next.