California Civil Rights Agency Expands Investigation into Ailing Game Maker
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision in July following a multi-year investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees at the company. The agency is now also seeking information on criminal investigations and complaints involving 19 people, as well as events at Blizzcon, an annual gaming convention, and at the company’s headquarters, according to public court documents.
The people’s names are redacted in the DFEH documents, but an Activision filing says the list includes CEO Bobby Kotick.
“The list includes the names of people who, according to Activision Blizzard records, have never been accused of sexual harassment, including its CEO, the former CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, a human resources representative and ‘other employees,’ Activision said in a January 31 letter to DFEH, which was included in court documents.
The DFEH subpoenaed police departments in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Irvine and Santa Monica, Calif., on Jan. 20, according to court documents. The documents, first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, show the agency is looking for police records related to complaints, calls for service or criminal investigations stemming from BlizzCon, as well as office activity. from Blizzard and Activision.
In January and February emails, agency officials and Activision attorneys argued over whether the information was relevant to the lawsuit, with Activision accusing the DFEH of “seeking this information for improper purposes, including to harass, annoy or embarrass individual employees”.
“This effort to sift through sensitive, non-public information is particularly alarming,” an Activision lawyer said in the Jan. 31 letter to DFEH.
“The DFEH is requesting sensitive and confidential information without limits or relevant scope from the Southern California Police Department,” an Activision spokesperson said Thursday. “Rather than protecting California workers, the DFEH is hindering meaningful progress for Activision Blizzard and delaying compensation for affected employees.”
The DFEH declined a request for comment and directed Bloomberg Law to its court documents.
The subpoenas have escalated the legal dispute between DFEH and Activision as the company nears completion of the deal. Additionally, Activision has reached an $18 million settlement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding harassment and discrimination claims. The DFEH sought to intervene in that lawsuit, saying it would undermine California’s own lawsuit, but a federal judge in December denied the agency’s request.
Paul Hastings represents Activision.
The case is Dep’t of Fair Employment and Housing v. Activision Blizzard Inc., Cal. Great. Ct., No. 21STCV26571, 02/17/22.