SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California civil rights attorney was fired while working on a discrimination case against video game giant Activision Blizzard and her colleague resigned in protest Wednesday, an attorney said whistleblower.
Janette Wipper was fired March 29 amid her success in pursuing the case as chief counsel for the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, her attorney, Alexis Ronickher, said. .
Melanie Proctor, an assistant chief attorney also involved in the Activision case, resigned Wednesday in what was Proctor’s last official day, the attorney said.
Ronickher did not specify why Wipper was fired. However, she said Wipper was considering filing a lawsuit under California’s whistleblower protection law.
The attorney noted that Governor Gavin Newsom reappointed Wipper to his post just four months before he was fired.
Bloomberg was first to report the reshuffle on Wednesday, citing an email from Proctor to department staff accusing Newsom and his office of interfering with the Activision lawsuit.
“For there to be justice, those with political influence must be held to the same set of laws and rules,” Ronickher said in a statement.
“Allegations of interference by our office are categorically false,” Newsom spokeswoman Erin Mellon said in a statement Wednesday.
The administration supports the Department of Fair Employment’s efforts “to fight all forms of discrimination and protect Californians,” Mellon said.
The agency sued the Santa Monica-based video game company in July, alleging a “frat boy” culture that had become “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”
It was one of several legal issues plaguing the Call of Duty and Candy Crush maker, dragging its stock price down last year and paving the way for Xbox maker Microsoft to make a takeover bid.
The $68.7 billion cash deal was announced in January. If approved by U.S. and foreign regulators, it could be one of the biggest tech acquisitions in history.
Announcing the deal, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted the Activision allegations and said it would be “essential” for the company to advance longtime CEO Bobby Kotick’s commitments to improve its corporate culture.
Neither Microsoft nor Activision responded to a request for comment Wednesday.
Activision has been criticized by the government and even some shareholders for allegations that management ignored sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees.
A lawsuit filed by a shareholder last year alleges the company’s negligent response caused the shares to decline in value.
The company also agreed last year to pay $18 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After a nearly three-year investigation, the agency concluded that Activision failed to take effective action after employees complained of sexual harassment, discriminated against pregnant employees and retaliated against employees who expressed themselves, in particular by dismissing them.
A federal judge approved the settlement on March 29, the same day Wipper was notified of her dismissal. The judge denied a request from Wipper’s agency to delay the settlement while she pursued her own case.