California Gov. Gavin Newsom interfered in his state’s sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against video gaming giant Activision Blizzard, prompting two of the lawyers working the case to quit, Bloomberg News reported.
Melanie Proctor, an attorney with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, told staffers in an email on Tuesday that she was resigning to protest Newsom’s firing of her boss, Janette Wipper, the agency’s chief counsel.
Both Proctor and Wipper quit the Activision lawsuit earlier this month, though no explanation was given as to why they departed, according to Bloomberg News.
Proctor told staffers that Newsom’s office “began to interfere” with the Activision lawsuit.
“The Office of the Governor repeatedly demanded advance notice of litigation strategy and of next steps in the litigation,” Proctor claimed in the email, which Bloomberg obtained.
“As we continued to win in state court, this interference increased, mimicking the interests of Activision’s counsel,” Proctor claimed in the email about Newsom’s alleged involvement.
When Wipper “attempted to protect” the agency from outside interference, she was “abruptly terminated,” according to Proctor.
“I hereby resign, effective April 13, 2022, in protest of the interference and Janette’s termination,” Proctor wrote.
Wipper is reportedly “evaluating all avenues of legal recourse including a claim under the California Whistleblower Protection Act,” according to her spokesperson.
Newsom spokesman Erin Mellon said the claims of interference are “categorically false,” according to the Bloomberg report. The governor’s office “will continue to support DFEH in their efforts to fight all forms of discrimination and protect Californians,” Mellon said.
Last summer, California filed suit against Activision, alleging that the Santa Monica-based publisher of popular video games like “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft” fostered a “frat bro” culture full of rape jokes, crude comments, and groping.
The atmosphere was so toxic that one female employee who was subjected to abusive behavior was driven to suicide, the lawsuit alleged.
Women at the firm, whose workforce was 80% male, were “having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors and being groped at the ‘cube crawls’ and other company events,” the suit claims.
The lawsuit triggered widespread anger among some staffers who walked out in protest of CEO Bobby Kotick’s handling of the scandal.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it would be acquiring the company for $68.7 billion. The acquisition is pending approval by antitrust officials at the Federal Trade Commission.