Activision Says California Agency Attorneys May Have Disputes Over Sexual Bias Case

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  • Agency lawyers obtained confidential information while working at the EEOC
  • May violate California ethics rules
  • Activision settled a similar EEOC lawsuit for $ 18 million

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(Reuters) – Activision Blizzard Inc has asked a California judge to stay the state Department of Employment and Housing trial accusing the video game maker of sexual harassment and discrimination so it can investigate the potential conflicts of interest of agency lawyers.

Activision attorneys at Paul Hastings said in a deposit Tuesday in Los Angeles state court that two attorneys representing the DFEH also investigated the company while working at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which could violate Rules of Professional Conduct for California Lawyers and could prevent them from continuing to work on the case.

DFEH sued the company in July, claiming it routinely underpays and does not promote female employees and tolerated sexual harassment. Activision last month agreed to pay up to $ 18 million to settle similar EEOC claims.

DFEH offered last month to oppose the EEOC deal, but the commission said the agency should not be allowed to intervene because DFEH lawyers had obtained confidential information about Activision in their previous jobs.

“If the lawyers used this information – which they would not have obtained without their employment at the EEOC – in the DFEH investigation, then the whole investigation on which this lawsuit is based could be tainted,” the company said on Tuesday.

The filing came the same day Activision, in a letter, said it fired more than 20 employees over allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, and 20 others facing further disciplinary action.

The DFEH did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Santa Monica-based Activision owns a number of very popular video game franchises, including Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft.

The DFEH lawsuit alleges that male Activision employees engaged in events called “cube crawls” in which they got drunk and harassed female employees. A worker is said to have died by suicide under pressure from a supervisor, with whom she had had sexual relations, while on a business trip.

The DFEH alleged that senior Activision executives were aware of the company’s “frat boy” culture and took no action to change it.

In a statement, Activision claimed the department’s claims were inaccurate and accused the DFEH of “disgraceful and unprofessional” conduct during its investigation.

In an amended complaint in August, DFEH said Activision was preventing the agency from further investigating malpractice.

The company had asked employees to report the incidents to lawyers it had retained from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, and then told DFEH that the records of those complaints were confidential, the agency said.

The case is Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Activision Blizzard Inc, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. 21STCV26571.

For the Ministry of Fair Employment and Housing: Rumduol Vuong

For Activision: Felicia Davis by Paul Hastings

Read more:

Activision Blizzard laid off 20 employees over harassment allegations

Activision Blizzard and US employment watchdog reach agreement in sexual harassment and discrimination case

Activision uses Wilmer probe to obscure ‘brotherhood’ affair – agency


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