Activision Blizzard to create $24m compensation fund for workplace harassment victims

Employees of Activision Blizzard hold a walkout and protest rally in Irvine, California, on July 28, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP, REUTERS) - Activision Blizzard reached an agreement Monday (Sept 27) with a United States federal agency to settle claims alleging sexual harassment and gender discrimination, but the video game maker remains the target of other investigations and complaints.

In August, the company behind Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft promised change with a management shakeup following long-running allegations of sexism and discrimination.

Under the agreement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Activision has committed to creating a compensation fund for eligible individuals, according to a statement.

The company will pay US$18 million (S$24.4 million) into the fund, and any remaining money will be divided among charities that fight for women's advancement in the video game industry, or more generally work for diversity and equality.

"Employees were subjected (to) sexual harassment that was severe or pervasive," said the complaint filed earlier Monday by the EEOC. The company "knew or should have known of the sexual harassment of the adversely affected employees".

The EEOC had investigated allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation at Activision for three years.

California-based Activision unveiled a management shakeup in early August, following employee protests and a California state lawsuit alleging the company enabled toxic workplace conditions and discriminated against women.

The shakeup came a week after workers walked out to protest sexism and harassment, as a call went out online to boycott hit titles such as Candy Crush.

"I am grateful to the employees who bravely shared their experiences," Activision chief executive officer Bobby Kotick said in the 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."

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is currently investigating Activision to determine whether it had properly disclosed the harassment and discrimination charges.

An industry union, the Communications Workers of America, announced two weeks ago it had filed a complaint against Activision for "worker intimidation and union busting".

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