Activision Blizzard is facing a discrimination suit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. (or DFEH). They have filed an application for a stay to stop that lawsuit so that it can investigate claims DFEH lawyers committed ethical misconduct.
According to the application, the DFEH is represented by lawyers who worked previously for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or EEOC), a federal agency that investigates workplace abuse claims. Additionally, the application claims that such an arrangement violates a California State Bar Conflict of Interest Rule. It states that a lawyer who formerly served as a government official [...] cannot represent a client in connection to a matter in the which the lawyer was involved personally or substantially as a member of the public or employee.
According to the application, the DFEH lawyers are disqualified from this case against Activision Blizzard because they previously worked on a similar case against the company as when they were employees of the EEOC.
Activision Blizzard has recently settled a $18 million discrimination case brought forward by the EEOC. DFEH wants to stop that settlement. It was actually the EEOC who raised ethical concerns against DFEH attorneys (perhaps to keep its win).
According to the application, two DFEH lawyers who appeared in the case (and currently hold leadership roles within [DFEH]), previously served as EEOC [REDACTED], where they directed the EEOCs investigation into Activision Blizzard.
Activision Blizzard could face serious problems if the court lifts the stay and finds that DFEH lawyers have violated conflict of interest rules. According to the company's filing, the violation of these rules could result in the disqualification of not only the two at-issue attorneys but also the entire group DFEH lawyers with whom they had worked. This also raises questions about the integrity of the investigation.
This comes as Blizzard has announced that 20 employees have left the company following harassment investigations. They also reprimanded 20 others. Some Blizzard employees have been agitating for an equitable workplace in the months since the lawsuits were published. They demanded that the company end forced arbitration and give greater transparency on pay.
We continue to demand the following and the chief suite fails to recognize them. #ABetterABK #EndAbuseInGaming pic.twitter.com/4Tk7aV9DjD ABetterABK ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) September 2, 2021
Both the DFEH and the EEOC didn't respond immediately to our requests for comment. Neither the DFEH or the EEOC had a chance of challenging Activision Blizzards claims. Neither have they filed any responses to this court application.
According to a spokesperson for Blizzard, the filings are being reviewed and we look forward to the resolution of the case with DFEH in a court of competent jurisdiction. We support the EEOC's and DFEHs goals of a safe and inclusive workplace that rewards employees fairly and is committed to eliminating harassment and discrimination at work.
The hearing will be held on October 20th.