Videogame maker Activision Blizzard has agreed to pay nearly $55 million to settle a California civil-rights lawsuit brought over complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and pay disparities by women employees that helped trigger the company’s acquisition by Microsoft.
The settlement, announced by the California Civil Rights Department on Friday, resolves the lawsuit filed against the “Call of Duty” videogame studio by the agency in 2021 over claims that it “discriminated against women at the company, including by denying promotion opportunities and paying them less than men for doing substantially similar work,” the CRD said.
The agreement, subject to court approval, will see Activision pay nearly $46 million into a settlement fund dedicated to compensating women employees and contract workers at the company, plus more than $9 million in attorneys’ fees and costs. Additionally, Activision will take steps “to help ensure fair pay and promotion practices at the company,” including retaining an independent consultant to evaluate its compensation and promotion policies.
Yet the settlement also sees the CRD withdraw its initial claims alleging a culture of widespread workplace sexual harassment at Activision, according to a copy of the agreement provided to MarketWatch. The document notes that the department is filing an amended complaint that removes the sexual-harassment allegations against the company and focuses on the gender-based pay and promotion claims.
The CRD made no note of its prior sexual-harassment claims against Activision in its announcement Friday. A spokesperson for the department said the statement “largely speaks for itself with respect to the historic nature of this more than $50 million settlement agreement, which will bring direct relief and compensation to women who were harmed by the company’s discriminatory practices.”
In a statement, an Activision spokesperson said the company is “gratified that the CRD has agreed to file an amended complaint that entirely withdraws its 2021 claims alleging widespread and systemic workplace harassment at Activision Blizzard.”
“We appreciate the importance of the issues addressed in this agreement and we are dedicated to fully implementing all the new obligations we have assumed as part of it,” the Activision spokesperson said. “We are committed to ensuring fair compensation and promotion policies and practices for all our employees, and we will continue our efforts regarding inclusion of qualified candidates from underrepresented communities in outreach, recruitment, and retention.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of the settlement Friday.
The California agency’s complaint was one of several high-profile investigations by both state and federal regulators in recent years into alleged workplace misconduct at Activision and potential failures by its leadership to respond appropriately.