The Landmark Gender Discrimination Case Against Activation Blizzard Will Go On

A California appeals court is the latest to strike down the company's request to dismiss the lawsuit.

A California appeals court sided with the California Civil Rights Department in a Monday ruling, allowing it to continue to litigate against Activision Blizzard in its landmark gender discrimination case.

The Second Appellate District of the Court of Appeal in Los Angeles enforced the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s ruling against an Activision Blizzard motion which requested the court system dismiss the Civil Rights Department on procedural grounds.

That lawsuit will now move closer toward trial, which was initially slated for February 2023 before the Civil Rights Department requested a year-long delay, according to Axios’ Stephen Totilo.

In that initial request, Activision Blizzard alleged that the Civil Rights Department (CRD), formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, did not follow its pre-trial obligations. Both the Superior Court and the Appellate Court disagreed in their rulings.

“With the Court of Appeal’s denial of a writ of mandate, the CRD will continue litigating this case to enforce the civil rights guarantees in the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the California Equal Pay Act on behalf of women who worked for Activision,” CRD director Kevin Kish said in a press release. “The Court of Appeal’s ruling allows the CRD to continue pursuing relief for the thousands of women in California who have suffered sex-based discrimination, harassment and retaliation as Activision workers.”

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An Activision spokesperson told Axios on Monday that the Appellate Court’s decision is “disappointing” and continued to allege that the CRD did not follow its protocols correctly.

The CRD first sued Activision Blizzard in July 2021 after a years-long investigation into the company’s workplace culture. In that lawsuit, it alleged that the company fostered a “frat boy” culture. The CRD said that it found incidents of unfair and discriminatory pay related to gender, that female employees of the company were subject to sexual harassment and assault by colleagues, and that the company did not act to timely correct the issues, despite numerous reports to its human resources department.

Over the past year, Activision Blizzard has categorically denied many of the claims and told IGN that the CRD’s allegations included “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”

But as the case has continued on, more allegations have arisen.

Reporting from The Wall Street Journal in November 2021 showed that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick had known about the issues at the company for years and had withheld information from his board and shareholders, despite previous claims that he had been unaware. In September 2021, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard, with particular interest in what Kotick knew and what was withheld from the publicly-traded game developer’s shareholders.

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In March, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled a separate lawsuit with Activision Blizzard over gender discrimination. As a part of that settlement, the EEOC mandated Activision Blizzard establish a $18 million fund for employee and contractor claimants who had been sexually harassed or subject to gender or pregnancy discrimination.

On Oct. 7, a former Activision Blizzard employee filed another lawsuit against the company, alleging that her former manager, Miguel Vega, had harassed her at work and threatened to extort her. In that lawsuit, the anonymous plaintiff said that she had reported the incidents to managers and human resources and was ignored for years, prior to Vega’s termination in August 2021.

In that same lawsuit, the plaintiff’s attorney, Lisa Bloom, said that the company has not distributed any of the $18 million fund established after the EEOC settlement. Bloom also said she is representing eight women who were allegedly sexually harassed during their time at Activision Blizzard.