Video game giant Activision Blizzard has agreed to pay $18 million to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit brought by the US government.
Activision, which is behind games like “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush,” settled the suit by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Monday.
In a seven-page complaint filed earlier Monday in federal court in California, the EEOC alleged that Activision exposed employees to “severe or pervasive” sexual harassment. The company also allegedly discriminated against pregnant employees.
Activision failed to appropriately respond to complaints about discrimination and even retaliated against employees who spoke out, the complaint alleged.
The EEOC said its lawsuit was based on a three-year investigation, which went on during similar inquiries by other state and federal regulators.
As part of the settlement agreement, Activision Blizzard agreed to use the $18 million to establish a fund for employees who were harassed or faced discrimination. The company also agreed to strengthen its anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies.
Additionally, Activision said it’s developing an initiative to create software tools and training programs to improve workplace policies at other tech companies.
“There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind, and I am grateful to the employees who bravely shared their experiences,” CEO Bobby Kotick said Monday in a statement.
“I am sorry that anyone had to experience inappropriate conduct, and I remain unwavering in my commitment to make Activision Blizzard one of the world’s most inclusive, respected, and respectful workplaces.”
He added, “We will continue to be vigilant in our commitment to the elimination of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. We thank the EEOC for its constructive engagement as we work to fulfill our commitments to eradicate inappropriate conduct in the workplace.”
The allegations first emerged months ago after California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the company, alleging that Activision is a breeding ground for sexual harassment, with male workers fostering a “frat bro” culture full of rape jokes, crude comments and groping that even drove one female employee to suicide.
The state’s investigation found that 80 percent of Activision’s employees are male and women were left to fend off “constant sexual harassment” by their colleagues and superiors, according to that lawsuit, which is separate from the one settled Monday.
The revelations detailed in the lawsuit sparked employee backlash, including a walkout and public letter. The company ousted two executives, one of whom was named in the lawsuit, over the matter.
Even as the company has settled the federal lawsuit, it’s still grappling with the state suit and complaints from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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