Activision Blizzard, embroiled in legal wranglings over alleged appalling work conditions for its staff, has requested additional time to investigate and potentially disqualify the California Department of Fair and Equal Housing from its ongoing legal battle with the agency. This is on account of potential ethics violations in its other ongoing legal battle with the California Department of Fair and Equal Housing. This is likely very bad for the DFEH’s prospects in both cases.
The legal cases against Activision Blizzard were, once upon a time, about the alleged years-long harassment of its employees, alleging horrendous treatment of female employees, sexual harassment, and psychological trauma. Somehow it has now become about two warring parties, supposedly both attempting to demonstrate these issues, in an elaborate legal spat that could end up hurting everyone involved. Except the lawyers’ bank accounts.
The DFEH recently attempted to intervene in a settlement between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Activision Blizzard. In doing so, the agency opened the door to an opposition from the EEOC, which claimed multiple ethics violations within the DFEH surrounding two former EEOC lawyers working on the case. Activision Blizzard has now used these claims to call for a stay in proceedings in its own case with the DFEH. Activision Blizzard also requests that, if the claims are found to be true, that the DFEH be disqualified from its own trial.
Most of Activision Blizzard’s evidence and argument resembles the oppositions made by the EEOC, including the claim that the DFEH’s entire investigation could be tainted by the potential ethics violations. The motion was also filed ex parte, meaning that it could potentially skip the standard legal process on account of its urgency. This comes after the DFEH’s own attempt at an ex parte intervention, which was denied by the courts.
In addition to the EEOC’s ethical complaints, Activision Blizzard also argues that the DFEH should be disqualified on account of its communications with Activision Blizzard employees regarding their rights to external counsel. The company alleges that the DFEH warned employees against finding their own lawyers, in favour of co-operating with the DFEH’s own investigation.
With two alleged ethics violations under its belt, both of which could disqualify the agency should the judge grant the stay of proceedings, things are not looking good for the DFEH. In fact, this may be its worst case scenario. This could shred the DFEH case, and in doing so allow Activision-Blizzard to get out of this nightmare with little more than a meager settlement. And, what many might suggest, would be a complete lack of justice for its employees.
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