A lawyer representing an Activision Blizzard (opens in new tab) employee with firsthand experience of sexual misconduct at the company said during a press conference today that the $18 million settlement the company reached with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October is "woefully inadequate," and called for the creation of a fund in excess of $100 million to compensate victims of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Attorney Lisa Bloom held the press conference in front of Blizzard headquarters today, accompanied by an Activision Blizzard employee named Christine who recited a distressing series of abuses she's experienced first-hand during four years at the company including rude comments about her body, unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching, "alcohol-infused team events," and invitations for casual sex with her supervisors.
When she complained, she said she was told her coworkers were "just joking," and that she should get over it. She said was also advised against going to Activision Blizzard's human resources department, and was demoted and denied profit sharing opportunities after she formally complained.
"We are here because sexual harassment victims at Activsion Blizzard have been ignored," said Bloom, who represents Christine. "They are still suffering, and it's time that they are prioritized."
Bloom said that at least three government agencies have investigated abuses at Activision Blizzard, including the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ultimately filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over sexual harassment and related claims. Activision Blizzard reached a settlement with the EEOC (opens in new tab) in September.
"The EEOC entered into a consent decree with the company, requiring it to set up an $18 million fund to compensate victims," Bloom said. "Given that there are hundreds of victims, I think we can all agree that the $18 million number is woefully inadequate."
Despite the relatively paltry amount involved—remember, CEO Bobby Kotick pocketed an estimated $150 million (opens in new tab) in 2020, and was in line to make the same in 2021 before taking a significant pay cut (opens in new tab) after the sexual misconduct scandal broke—Bloom said Activision Blizzard hasn't actually made any moves toward meeting its obligations, and a legal deadline to set up a website and name a claims administrator has already passed. However, that may be because of an objection to the settlement filed in October by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing over concerns that information relevant to its state-level case could end up sealed under the terms of the EEOC's federal case. The process of implementing the settlement is presumably on hold until the DFEH objection is resolved.
Bloom expressed gratitude for the investigations into Activision Blizzard, but said that the concerns of the victims of sexual misconduct at the company have gone unaddressed. To that end, she called for the creation of a "streamlined, fast, fair process" for the resolution of legal claims against the company.
"Set up a fund in excess of $100 million," Bloom said. "Let victim advocates participate in setting the rules, and let victims make their cases to sympathetic claims administrators who have a history of caring about victims."
Bloom also demanded a full review of the case, and the damage done to individual careers, by a neutral third party.
Following the press conference, Activision Blizzard said in a statement to PC Gamer that it appreciates the courage of employees who come forward with reports of misconduct, and apologized to "victims of people whose conduct did not live up to our values."
"As we have continued to reaffirm in our recent communications, such conduct is not consistent with our standards, our expectations, and what the vast majority of our employees meet on a daily basis. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct, harassment or retaliation of any kind. We will not tolerate any behavior that is not aligned to our values and will hold employees accountable who fail to live up to them.
"The company is committed to creating an environment we can all be proud of. We are in the process of implementing significant changes and improvements to the scope, structure and efficiency of our compliance and human resources teams, reporting systems, and transparency into our investigation process. The safety and support of our employees, especially those who have suffered, remains our top priority."
Bloom's press conference at Blizzard HQ comes amidst an ongoing walkout of Activision Blizzard QA employees in protest of recent employee cuts at Raven's QA department. The walkout began at Raven in Madison, Wisconsin on Monday and spread to other Activision Blizzard studios (opens in new tab) on Tuesday; according to the ABK Workers Alliance, some employees at Blizzard QA are continuing the work stoppage.
For those of Blizzard QA, who have continued to walk without the certainty of pay: thank you. We know this is an incredibly frightening time to be without income, and we are grateful for your solidarity and devotion to our peers.December 8, 2021
I've reached out to The Bloom Firm for comment and will update if I receive a reply.