Today, the Communication Workers of America union filed an objection to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) proposed settlement with Activision Blizzard regarding sexual harassment allegations at the game publisher. The union is, to say the least, unhappy with the settlement for reasons it outlines in excruciating detail in a letter, included in its objection filing, to the EEOC.
This news arrives only hours after the case’s presiding judge denied the ex parte intervention motion filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If you can’t keep track of all the parties involved in this case, I cannot blame you.
The background is that both the DFEH and EEOC engaged in parallel investigations into Activision Blizzard, culminating in two separate lawsuits. The DFEH filed its lawsuit first, and the EEOC followed. The EEOC and Activision Blizzard announced they had come to a resolution, and presented a $US17m settlement, in the form of a consent decree, to the courts. The DFEH took umbrage with the consent decree and filed a motion to intervene, which the EEOC opposed. The CWA has now joined in the fun with its own objections against the EEOC’s proposed settlement.
In the CWA’s letter, the union lays out dozens of complaints with the current status of the consent decree and demands a fairness hearing at which its members can raise these criticisms to the court. These criticisms include: the fact that Activision Blizzard workers were not consulted, the lack of promised documentation, the complete absence of the employee notice that the consent decree promises, the paltry $US450 ($611) per person legal fund for potential claimants, the lack of clarity as to who will be handling settlement claims, the comparatively minuscule payment ($US17m is pennies to Activision Blizzard), the fact that the EEOC claims Activision Blizzard is not being punished despite the company’s obvious malfeasance obviously punishable malpractice, and a lot of procedural complaints. This letter is scathing.
In addition to airing these explicit criticisms, the CWA also poses quite a few relevant questions to the EEOC, many of which I have been desperately asking myself as this case has consumed my brain for the last week. Here’s just a taste:
4. This proposed Consent Decree seems to be an attempt to preempt the parallel suit brought by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing under California law. California law provides for greater remedies, and the DFEH seems much more willing to aggressively and effectively pursue litigation. Please explain why this Consent Decree was suddenly entered into shortly after the DFEH’s complaint was filed and has become active. Do you plan to seek input from the DFEH? Why was this not coordinated with the DFEH?
9. The Consent Decree seems to cover “Defendants, as well as their parents, subsidiaries, officers, directors, agents, successors and assigns.” See Consent Decree p. 2:15-16. Does this Consent Decree then absolve the individuals from any further liability? Please explain. How will notice be given to them to assure compliance?
13. We also would like to know how the EEOC will determine whether someone is an “eligible claimant” as defined in the Consent Decree. Please explain how you intend to determine the “list of potential claimants.” See Consent Decree p. 4:20-21. What about misclassified workers under state or federal law? As I have indicated, CWA is in contact with a large number of individuals. The DFEH is in contact with many individuals. How do you intend to incorporate any individuals that we know about, former employees and all people who were adversely affected by the illegal practices of Defendant so that they are entitled to submit a claim form?
There are 31 items in this letter, encompassing every complaint, question, and demand you could possibly imagine — it is incredible. Two different parties taking up arms against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s settlement is not a good sign for Activision Blizzard’s legal prospects, nor for the public optics of the EEOC.
This is the third piece I’ve had to write about this settlement in as many days. To the lawyers of Activision Blizzard, the CWA, the DFEH, and EEOC, please…let me rest.