Latest Activision Blizzard legal twist sees California’s $18m settlement objection questioned

A new twist in the ongoing and increasingly messy legal situation surrounding Activision Blizzard appears to have left California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing on the back foot (thanks, PC Gamer).

The California DFEH is, you may recall, the state department which filed the original complaint against Activision Blizzard for running a studio allegedly rife with sexual discrimination, harassment and a “frat boy” culture.

Last week, the DFEH objected to a $18m settlement between Activision Blizzard and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), essentially saying the agreement impacted its own efforts for justice and risked letting Activision Blizzard off the hook.

Now, the EEOC has hit back at the DFEH’s objection – and says it has uncovered something which could undermine not just the DFEH’s objection but potentially its whole legal argument against Activision Blizzard.

Still with us? Good. The EEOC says the DFEH’s case was led – until very recently – by two of its own former lawyers. That would make the DFEH’s objection a conflict of interest and a potential legal issue regarding those attorney’s conduct.

In response, the DFEH has replaced those two lawyers, effectively confirming it slipped up, but the EEOC says doing so after the fact could still leave the DFEH’s entire case liable to be ruled void.

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Video game lawyer Richard Hoeg, host of the Virtual Legality podcast, wrote that “this is a pretty massive thing, and if true would call into question large portions of the DFEH process (certainly as against the EEOC directly).

“It might even provide Activision with its own defense to the original suit. Stay tuned.”

While we only heard of the EEOC investigation last month, recently-released court documents now show the commission was investigating Activision Blizzard from as early as September 2018, predating the DFEH’s legal action.

And while these two fight it out, Activision Blizzard faces other action. The company recently acknowleged it was also being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Finally, there’s also the charge filed by Activision Blizzard employees, which accuses the company of using “coercive tactics” to prevent organisational efforts to improve working conditions.

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