According to VentureBeat, Activision Blizzard has reportedly asked a California State court to end the California State Department of Fair and Equal Housing (DFEH) lawsuit against the company due to the DFEH allegedly “improperly investigating”. The DFEH lawsuit began in July of last year over allegations that Activision Blizzard had a “frat bro” culture of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and other misconduct, which also prompted a corresponding federal investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) federal agency. At the end of March, Activision Blizzard had settled the federal lawsuit with the EEOC by creating an $18 million fund for harassment and discrimination victims, which the EEOC and federal judge are prepared to accept. However, the DFEH disagreed with the settlement, believing it to be too low in compensation for damages, and had attempted to block the settlement to further pursue more litigation and damages.
Unsurprisingly, Activision Blizzard most likely wants to avoid the more aggressive DFEH lawsuit; therefore, Activision Blizzard has called for the lawsuit to end. According to Activision Blizzard, the DFEH had allegedly “improperly investigated” the company by not properly investigating claims, failing to negotiate a resolution, and failing to mediate with the company before it filed the lawsuit last year. With these grievances, Activision Blizzard claims the DFEH unfairly harmed the reputation of the company and “undermined the public’s trust.” Activision Blizzard stated in regards to their request to end the DFEH investigation:
“We are moving to dismiss the DFEH’s Complaint because the agency violated its own rules, acted in bad faith, and undermined its authority to file this lawsuit…Our motion comes just days after we joined the EEOC in opposing the sixth attempt by the DFEH to disrupt the federal settlement reached with the EEOC that already is helping Activision build a better and more inclusive workplace and providing relief and closure to current and former employees.”
As for the violations the DFEH allegedly committed, it is due to the DFEH not strictly following the guidelines the DFEH and EEOC had agreed upon. Since both agencies were investigating the same allegations, the EEOC had agreed to focus on harassment, abuse and retaliation; whereas, the DFEH was supposed to concentrate their lawsuit over disparities and gender discrimination concerning pay and promotions. Despite this agreement between agencies, the DFEH had also included harassment into their lawsuit against Activision Blizzard.
So, with the DFEH violating their agreement with the EEOC and desiring a harsher punishment for Activision Blizzard, reports have come out that the DFEH lawsuit is being intentionally sabotaged by the state of California, specifically the governor’s office. In April, DFEH Assistant Chief Counsel, Melanie Proctor, had resigned from her position in protest of Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, allegedly interfering with the Activision Blizzard investigation. According to Proctor, “the Office of the Govenor repeatedly demanded advance notice of litigation strategy and of next steps in the litigation. As we continued to win in state court, this interference increased, mimicking the interests of Activision’s counsel.” Furthermore, a month before Proctor resigned, DFEH Chief Counsel, Janette Wipper, was unexpectedly fired from her position, which both Proctor and Wipper believe to be in relation to the Activision Blizzard lawsuit. Gavin Newsom’s office deems the allegations against them “categorically false”, but Wipper is reportedly evaluating all of her options, including the California Whistelblower Protection Act.