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California court to block DFEH intervention on Activision settlement

Update: Judge Dale S. Fischer has ruled to deny the DFEH 's intervention

A California District Court judge said she will likely prevent the Department of Fair Employment and Housing from getting involved in Activision Blizzard's settlement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

During a hearing earlier this week, Judge Dale S. Fischer said she was "not going to allow the DFEH to intervene" because it's "not appropriate," Bloomberg Law reports.

While this was not an official ruling, she added: "It's highly unlikely that I would change my mind."

The matter at hand was Activision Blizzard's proposed settlement with the EEOC, following the Commission's own multi-year investigation into discrimination, abuse and other misconduct within the publisher's workplace.

In September, Activision Blizzard announced it had reached a settlement with the EEOC which involved, among other things, the creation of an $18 million fund to compensate eligible claimants for discrimination and harassment suffered within the company.

Less than two weeks later, the DFEH revealed it was preparing an objection to the proposed settlement. Chief among its concerns was that it involves employees releasing the publisher from other claims under California state law, which would undermine and damage its own lawsuit against Activision Blizzard.

The following week, the Communications Workers of America union filed its own objection against the settlement, having previously lodged a complaint against Activision Blizzard (although this has since been withdrawn on a "technicality" and is expected to be refiled).

During this week's hearing, Judge Fischer added that, while she would not yet the DFEH join the case, she may still reject the $18 million settlement as well.

"The fact that this particular decree is consistent with others doesn't necessarily mean that in this case I'm going to approve it," she said.

Both Activision Blizzard and the EEOC must submit clarifications on the proposed settlement in early January.

Once done, the DFEH will have two weeks to submit its own comments. The judge is undecided as to whether there will be a hearing.

She also reprimanded both the EEOC and DFEH for not cooperating more on their legal action against Activision Blizzard.

"This is a bit unseemly," she said. "I feel like I should send the two of you to a mediator, never mind Activision getting involved in this. She added: "You apparently have been working well together for a very long time, and you'll have to be working well together in the future. It seems like not only the defendant but also some of these employees and former employees are going to get caught in the middle here and that's not appropriate."

Update, December 23, 2021: On December 20 Judge Dale S. Fischer ruled to deny the DFEH 's intervention on Activision Blizzard's settlement.

"While the court finds the formal intervention is not appropriate, DFEH has enough of a general public interest in the subject matter of this lawsuit and its resolution that the court will allow DFEH to present its position as to the proposed revised consent decree via an amicus brief," said Fischer.

"While DFEH will not have the rights of a formal party to the action, its concerns can be expressed -succinctly- through this mechanism and will be considered by the court."

Additional reporting by Jeffrey Rousseau