Activision, EEOC win judge's approval of sex bias settlement

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REUTERS/ Mike Blake

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  • $18 million deal settles claims of harassment, unequal pay
  • Judge rejected California agency's renewed bid to intervene
  • State agency separately sued Activision for sex discrimination

(Reuters) - A Los Angeles federal judge on Tuesday signed off on Activision Blizzard Inc's $18 million settlement of a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit alleging widespread sex discrimination, over the objections of a California agency that says the deal could derail its own case against the video game maker.

During a hearing, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer said she would give final approval to the settlement after Activision and the EEOC made various tweaks she requested last week.

Reuters watched a livestream of the hearing.

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Fischer also rejected a renewed bid by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which sued Activision for alleged violations of state anti-bias laws several months before the EEOC filed its lawsuit, to intervene in the case.

Activision did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did DFEH.

EEOC spokeswoman Nicole St. Germain said the agency was pleased that Fischer said she would approve the settlement. She said that in addition to the payout, the deal requires Activision to take steps to prevent and address discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

In a 2021 complaint, the EEOC had accused Activision of failing to take corrective and preventive measures on sexual harassment complaints, discriminating against women in pay and promotions, and discriminating against pregnant workers. Activision denied violating anti-bias laws, but has said it will make changes to how it addresses workplace complaints.

Jahan Sagafi of Outten & Golden, who represents DFEH, told Fischer on Tuesday that federal law requires the EEOC to defer to state agencies, and that the commission lacked the authority to sue Activision because DFEH had filed its own case. DFEH had not previously made that argument in the Activision case.

Fischer in December rejected DFEH's initial motion to intervene in the case, and the agency has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse that ruling. The 9th Circuit on Monday denied DFEH's motion to stay the district court proceedings pending the outcome of the appeal.

On Tuesday, Fischer told Sagafi that his new argument was untimely, and unnecessary because of the pending appeal.

DFEH in its earlier motion to intervene said Activision workers who take a payout from the EEOC settlement would be required to waive their ability to participate in the state agency's case.

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Activision Blizzard Inc, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 21-7682.

For the EEOC: Anna Park

For Activision: Elena Baca of Paul Hastings

Read more:

Activision Blizzard, U.S. employment watchdog reach agreement in sexual harassment and discrimination case

Activision Blizzard fired 20 employees following harassment claims

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.