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Activision Blizzard asked a state court to dismiss the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against it by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
The filing in the Los Angeles Superior Court said that the DFEH failed to properly investigate claims prior to the filing of the lawsuit. The filing also said the DFEH failed to negotiate a resolution and failed to mediate with the company before it filed the lawsuit last year. And Activision Blizzard said that in the process, the DFEH unfairly damaged the reputation of the company and undermined the public trust.
“We are moving to dismiss the DFEH’s Complaint because the agency violated its own rules, acted in bad faith, and undermined its authority to file this lawsuit,” said Activision Blizzard in a statement. “Our motion comes just days after we joined the EEOC in opposing the sixth attempt by the DFEH to disrupt the federal settlement reached with the EEOC that already is helping Activision build a better and more inclusive workplace and providing relief and closure to current and former employees.”
The July 2021 DFEH lawsuit alleged that the company had a “frat house culture” where sexual harassment was tolerated and complaints were swept under the rug. It alleged that female employees were subjected to harassment, unequal pay, retaliation, and a failure to prevent harassment. Dozens of Activision Blizzard employees were either fired or voluntarily left the company in the wake of the lawsuit.
Activision Blizzard alleged the lawsuit was the result of “unprecedented inter-agency friction and government misconduct” that began in 2018 as routine and overlapping investigations by the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the DFEH. The filing noted that the DFEH hired two former EEOC attorneys who were involved in the EEOC’s investigation of Activision Blizzard. The company said this was an ethical violation by the DFEH, as it assigned those attorneys to its own investigation.
The filing said the two agencies decided to split the task with EEOC focusing on workplace harassment and retaliation, while DFEH would focus on other gender discrimination claims around pay and promotions. But DFEH expanded its focus to include the matters being investigated by EEOC. DFEH chief counsel Janette Wipper (who was terminated in another controversial move reportedly led by Governor Gavin Newsom) insisted on moving forward with a larger investigation and ultimately filed a lawsuit without true due process, the filing alleged. Wipper’s assistant chief counsel in the case also resigned after Wipper was fired.
The filing also said the DFEH fueled a media campaign to tarnish the reputations of both Activision Blizzard and the EEOC, which recently settled its lawsuit for $18 million. The DFEH accused EEOC of suppressing evidence and allegedly sought to dismantle the settlement between Activision Blizzard and the EEOC. A federal court described the dispute between the agencies as “unseemly.”
It alleged that Wipper communicated details of the case to the Wall Street Journal while DFEH director Kevin Kish communicated with the Washington Post. And it alleged that the DFEH declared that it had completed its investigation before receiving materials it had requested from Activision Blizzard.
We’ve asked the DFEH for comment. The agency said the response would be in its court filings.
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