The Activision-Blizzard sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit is back in the news this week, but for an unexpected reason. Readers will recall that the California DFEH, which is pursuing one of the lawsuits against the gaming company on behalf of victims, had filed an objection to the proposed settlement between the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Activision-Blizzard. But this past Friday, the EEOC filed its opposition to the DFEH’s objection on conflict of interest grounds, as apparently two of the DFEH attorneys who had been working on that case also used to work for the EEOC and at one point contributed to its similar case.
In its heavily redacted opposition, EEOC claims the DFEH violated Rule 1.11(a)(2) of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, which prevents an attorney from working on a case that he or she had worked on before at a different government agency without appropriate permission and screening. In other words, if the claim is true, the two lawyers might actually have filed an objection to a settlement they had previously worked on. According to the EEOC, the entire DFEH legal department should therefore be barred from working on the case, not just the two former EEOC staffers, though apparently those two have already resigned and been replaced and it’s not clear whether screening ever took place; the federal agency also argues that the DFEH’s intervention into the settlement should be tossed on the grounds that it was the product of “prohibited representation.” Conveniently for the EEOC, that would mean the settlement would go through unopposed.
It’s hard to say what exactly the EEOC hopes to achieve here or which workers or victims are being helped; we’ve previously covered labor organizers’ skepticism about the EEOC’s motivations in regard to the settlement, and it’s not a stretch to wonder whether we’re just watching a state-versus-federal turf war where the only winner is Activision-Blizzard.