Lesson Learned? Riot Games Settles Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Riot Games, known for the online game League of Legends, was sued by two female employees, in November 2018. The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court following press coverage of employees who accused Riot Games of having a “bro culture” that allowed for harassment and other inappropriate and often sexual behavior. This included sending inappropriate photos, distributed lists ranking female employees based on attractiveness, crotch-grabbing, and discussing or miming having sex with workers. The exposes revealed that it was difficult for female employees to get promoted, paid equally, and taken seriously. The lawsuit accused the company of violating the California Equal Pay Act, gender-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

In an update posted by Riot Games in August, it was announced that the company had come to a settlement with the employees, who the company refers to as “Rioters”, who were suing them. The announcement contained an assurance that “sexual harassment, and retaliation are not systemic issues at Riot,” and stated that they were “hopeful that the settlement will allow us to continue our momentum… in making Riot a leader in inclusive workplaces.” Last week, details of the settlement were revealed.

Riot Games has agreed to a $10 million settlement in the class action lawsuit filed by their employees. If the settlement is approved by the court, the money will be distributed amongst approximately 1,000 women who have worked at Riot Games in the last five years. Riot Games had about 2,500 employees and an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue in 2018. Both full-time employees and contractors will receive pieces of the settlement based on how long they worked for Riot Games, with contractors receiving less.

The settlement includes details on how Riot Games plans on improving the company’s culture. Much of the plan seems to be about giving power to the employees, including better systems for reporting sexual harassment or discrimination, and employee groups with the power to monitor the company’s progress on initiatives to review hiring practices, wage discrepancy, and promotion practices. Riot also has stated an intent to hire a chief diversity officer.

In a joint statement the two sides made in August, Nicolo Laurent, CEO of Riot Games, said “With this agreement, we are honoring our commitment to find the best and most expeditious way for all Rioters, and Riot, to move forward and heal. Over the past year, we’ve made substantial progress toward evolving our culture and will continue to pursue this work as we strive to be the most inclusive company in gaming.” Ryan Saba, lawyer for the Plaintiffs, said, “This is a very strong settlement agreement that provides meaningful and fair value to class members for their experiences at Riot Games.” Saba agreed with Laurent’s assessment of the company’s progress toward change saying “This is a clear indication that Riot is dedicated to making progress in evolving its culture and employment practices. A number of significant changes to the corporate culture have been made, including increased transparency and industry-leading diversity and inclusion programs.”

In the spring, Riot attempted to force arbitration in two sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuits filed separately from the class action lawsuit. This resulted in a walkout organized by the employees. Riot was not swayed by the walkout, but it agreed that after the end of current litigation, it would to allow new employees to waive the forced arbitration in sexual assault and harassment cases. This decision will be short-lived, as California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill in October that makes it illegal for companies to require new employees to sign arbitration agreements starting in 2020.