LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge today approved a settlement between Activision Blizzard and federal workplace regulators in which the Santa Monica- based video game giant will pay $18 million to resolve a civil-rights complaint accusing the company of sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit last year after a three-year investigation into allegations of discriminatory practices at the gaming company in which female employees were harassed without consequence and paid less than their male counterparts, according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.
As part of the settlement approved by U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer, Activision Blizzard -- publisher of the games Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft -- will create an $18 million fund to compensate employees who claim damages.
Any amounts not used for claimants will be divided between charities that ``advance women in the video game industry or promote awareness around harassment and gender equality issues,'' as approved by the EEOC, according to Activision Blizzard.
``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 Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a statement when the suit was tentatively settled in September.
``I am sorry that anyone had to experience inappropriate conduct, and I remain unwavering in my commitment to make Activision Blizzard one of the world's most inclusive, respected, and respectful workplaces.''
The company said in a legal filing that it denied ``all allegations of wrongdoing,'' and agreed to the settlement to avoid ``the expense, distraction and possible litigation associated with such a dispute.''
Last summer, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision Blizzard for allegedly fostering a ``frat boy'' culture in which female employees were subjected to sexual harassment, unequal pay and retaliation.
According to the complaint, lodged in Los Angeles Superior Court, female employees, who make up around 20% of the Activision workforce, allege they are kept from promotions because of the possibility they might become pregnant.
In a statement when the state suit was filed, Activision said the allegations were ``distorted, and in many cases false'' and did not reflect the company as it currently operates.