The video game publisher Activision Blizzard said Monday that it would pay $18 million in a settlement with a federal employment agency that filed a civil-rights complaint against the company earlier in the day, accusing it of sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees.
In a news release, Activision said the money would “compensate and make amends to eligible claimants,” with remaining funds going to charities that “advance women in the video game industry or promote awareness around harassment and gender equality issues,” as well as to company diversity and inclusion efforts.
In a seven-page document filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused Activision of discriminating against pregnant employees, paying female employees less than their male counterparts because of their gender and retaliating against employees who complained about unfair treatment.
Employees were subjected to “sexual harassment that was severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment,” said the complaint, which sought a jury trial. “The conduct was unwelcome and adversely affected the employees.” The complaint said “extensive” discussions with Activision to address the agency’s findings and come to an agreement had been unsuccessful.
The federal agency said the complaint had followed a nearly three-year investigation, which occurred while a California employment agency was also investigating Activision. The state inquiry culminated in a July lawsuit that sparked upheaval at the game publisher.
Monday’s settlement does not affect the California agency’s lawsuit, the company said.
Since July, other groups have weighed in. The Communications Workers of America, a labor union, filed a complaint this month with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Activision of violating federal labor law, and Activision said last week that the Securities and Exchange Commission was also investigating the company.
The company said Monday that as part of the settlement, it would also improve its policies to prevent harassment and discrimination and appoint an external consultant to review Activision’s reporting and investigative procedures.
“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,” Activision’s chief executive, Bobby Kotick, said in the news release. “I am sorry that anyone had to experience inappropriate conduct.”
In a separate legal filing, Activision denied “all allegations of wrongdoing,” and said it had agreed to the settlement to avoid “the expense, distraction and possible litigation associated with such a dispute.”