California agency drops sexual harassment case against Activision Blizzard

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More than two years after a California state agency charged The agency on Friday dropped its accusations against video game maker Activision Blizzard of fostering a culture of sexual harassment against women in a surprising about-face.

The California Department of Civil Rights and Activision Blizzard said in a settlement with the company that “no court or independent investigation has substantiated any allegations” of “systemic or pervasive sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard” or “that senior executives at Activision Blizzard ignored , tolerated or tolerated a culture of harassment, retaliation or systemic discrimination.” The agreement also said its investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by Activision's board of directors or its CEO, Robert Kotick.

The dropping of the charges ends a long narrative about the company, which it had repeatedly said was false. The California agency's original complaint contended that the state had conducted an investigation into Activision and found that it “fostered a widespread 'frat boy' workplace” and that female employees were “subjected to ongoing sexual harassment.” At the time the charges were filed, Activision said the complaint included “distorted and, in many cases, false descriptions” and was “irresponsible behavior by unaccountable state bureaucrats.”

The settlement agreement is expected to be filed in court early next week.

The agreement, signed by both sides, said that Gilbert Casellas, former chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, had conducted a review of Activision Blizzard and found that “there was no widespread harassment or recurring pattern or practice of gender harassment.” ” in the company.

Activision Blizzard, which makes video games such as Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft, was recently acquired by Microsoft after a long battle with antitrust regulators. The Federal Trade Commission had tried to block the deal, but a judge ruled in its favor.

The California Department of Civil Rights case, and the pall it created over the company in 2021, was one of the factors that led Microsoft to look to buy Activision because its shares had fallen.

As part of the settlement, Activision Blizzard agreed to set aside money (up to $46.75 million) to pay women who had worked at the company from 2015 to 2020 and who said they received unequal pay. But unusually, one of the California agency's own experts testified that when taking into account the seniority of women's roles in the company, he found no pay disparity. He said there is a disparity by not taking into consideration the rank of employees.

Activision agreed to hire an outside consultant to evaluate compensation, promotion policies and training as part of the deal.



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