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Activision Blizzard settles with EEOC, creating $18m fund to compensate staff

Publisher will donate any remaining funds to charities approved by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Activision Blizzard has reached a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, one of the US government bodies that has been investigating workplace issues at the Call of Duty publisher.

News of the EEOC's examination of Activision Blizzard first emerged last week, with suggestions that it could lead to a settlement. The publisher has now detailed the requirements of this settlement, although it is still waiting for approval from the courts.

Activision Blizzard has promised to create an $18 million fund to "compensate and make amends to eligible claimants," with the EEOC to determine who is eligible and how much relief they are entitled to.

This will be open to current and former Activision Blizzard employees who worked at any of the company's US locations since September 1, 2016. Examples of what people can claim for include "sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and/or related retaliation or constructive dischage by [Activision Blizzard]."

Any money left over from the $18 million fund will be donated to charities focused on promoting awareness around harassment and gender equality issues, advancing women in the games industry, and company diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. All charity selections will need to be approved by the EEOC.

To put the $18 million figure into context, in the last financial year Activision Blizzard reported net revenues of $8.1 billion and net bookings of $8.4 billion. In its most recent quarter alone, these figures came in at $2.3 billion and $1.9 billion respectively.

Activision Blizzard made other promises in the agreement, including a proposal to develop software tools and training programs that improve workplace policies and practices, not just at the publisher but across the industry.

It will also hire an internal equal employment opportunity coordinator, and bring in a neutral, third-party EEO consultant to ensure it is complying with the agreement. The consultant will also have to be approved by the EEOC.

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick made a statement about the agreement, reiterating many of the things he has said in the last few months.

"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," he said. "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.

"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."

Activision Blizzard still faces an investigation from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, accusations of illegal union busting activity from the Communications Workers of America, a class action lawsuit on behalf of its investors for not disclosing issues with its workplace culture, and the lawsuit from the State of California's Department for Fair Employment and Housing that first raised these issues back in July.

The company is also under pressure over its executive compensation plans, particularly when it comes to Kotick's earnings. The SOC Investment Group told GamesIndustry.biz it is calling for the publisher to award no bonuses in 2021 until the workplace issues are resolved.

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