Activision Blizzard sued over employee’s death over sexual harassment

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Gaming company Activision Blizzard, acquired by Microsoft for nearly $69 billion recently, is being sued by parents of an employee who died by suicide in 2017, blaming the death owing to sexual harassment.

According to a report by The Washington Post, Paul and Janet Moynihan, the parents of Kerri Moynihan, a 32-year-old finance manager at Activision Blizzard, allege sexual harassment was a “significant factora contributing to her death”.

Investigators ruled Kerri Moynihan’s death a suicide after she was found dead in a hotel room at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in the US in April 2017.

“A supervisor then lied to detectives about his relationship with her,” according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Post.

A California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) lawsuit filed last year accused the gaming company of “fostering a culture of sexual harassment, misconduct and gender-based discrimination”.

The DFEH complaint alleged that at the holiday party before her death, “male co-workers passed around a picture of her vagina, and referenced a ‘male supervisor’ who allegedly brought sex toys with him on the business trip”, the report mentioned.

Activision Blizzard called the DFEH lawsuit’s claims “distorted, and in many cases false”.

The family’s wrongful death lawsuit claims that their daughter’s boss, Greg Restituito, initially lied to investigators, concealing that he had a sexual relationship with Kerri Moynihan.

According to a LinkedIn profile, Restituito worked as a senior finance director for Activision Blizzard until May 2017, the month after Kerri Moynihan’s death.

According to the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard then refused to turn over to police the victim’s company-issued laptop, said that her cellphone had been “wiped”.

The company also allegedly refused to give them access to Restituito’s laptop or cellphone.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement that the company is “deeply saddened by the tragic death of Ms. Moynihan, who was a valued member of the company”.

“We will address the complaint through the legal process as appropriate, and out of respect for the family we have no further comment at this time,” the spokesperson added.

Activision Blizzard is currently under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over its handling of allegations of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.

Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is likely to receive a close look from antitrust enforcers in the US and abroad at a time when they have stepped up scrutiny of proposed mergers, especially in the tech sector.

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