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Riot Games will pay $10 million to settle gender discrimination suit

Riot Games’ West L.A. campus
Riot Games’ West L.A. campus
(Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games)

Riot Games agreed to pay out at least $10 million to women who worked at the company in the last five years as part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit over alleged gender discrimination, according to court documents filed Monday.

The suit began in November 2018 when two women who had worked at the Los Angeles game studio, which makes the popular “League of Legends” game and is owned by the Chinese technology giant Tencent, sued over violations of the California Equal Pay act, alleging that they were routinely subjected to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

The newly filed documents reveal the details of the settlement, which was announced in August, for the first time. The approximately 1,000 women who worked at Riot Games from November 2014 until the date the settlement is finalized will be entitled to a payment from the multimillion-dollar pot. The final dollar amount that each employee who self-identifies as female receives will vary depending on how long they worked for Riot, with full employees receiving more than contractors.

Asked about the settlement, a Riot spokesperson said in a statement: “We’re pleased to have a proposed settlement to fully resolve the class action lawsuit. The settlement is another important step forward, and demonstrates our commitment to living up to our values and to making Riot an inclusive environment for the industry’s best talent.”

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The company has approximately 2,500 employees at offices around the world and brought in an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue in 2018.

The settlement filing also lays out a number of commitments Riot has made to improve its company culture, including beefing up internal programs for reporting sexual harassment and discrimination. They include undertaking a review of all pay, promotion and hiring practices to increase fairness and transparency, hiring a dedicated chief diversity officer, and creating a number of employee groups empowered to track the company’s progress on these fronts.

Both the plaintiffs and Riot have agreed to the preliminary settlement, but it still needs to be approved by the court.

The lawsuit was filed in the wake of a dramatic series of exposés, beginning with an article from the games website Kotaku, in which current and former employees described a workplace rife with sexist behavior. The suit laid out allegations that Riot fostered a “men-first” “bro culture,” where harassment and inappropriate behavior such as “crotch-grabbing, phantom humping, and sending unsolicited and unwelcome pictures of male genitalia” and managers circulating a “hot girl list,” ranking female employees by attractiveness, went unchecked.

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The suit also alleged that outspoken female employees faced retaliation from Riot, including “denied promotions, refusals to provide increased compensation or equal pay, demotions, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, losses of benefits, suspensions, terminations, and other adverse employment actions.”

Two employees also filed individual wrongful termination and sexual harassment suits against the company.

In response to the scandal, Riot committed to a series of internal initiatives to add more women to its leadership, close wage gaps, and change its company culture.

But in the spring of 2019, the legal battles spilled out of the courtroom and onto Riot’s West L.A. corporate campus after Riot tried to force the two individual cases into arbitration. In response, employees organized a walkout.

The walkout marked the first mass worker action of its kind in the video game industry. Organizers said that it was inspired by the massive Google walkout of November 2018, which was also staged partly as a protest against the tech giant’s use of forced arbitration.

The practice, which denies employees suing their employer a full trial by moving the dispute to an arbitration process that critics say often favors the company, has faced mounting opposition in the last year. After the Google walkout, the company agreed to do away with forced arbitration entirely. Facebook partly followed suit, saying it would stop the practice for sexual harassment cases. In October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new bill making it illegal for companies to require employees hired after Jan. 1, 2020, to sign an arbitration agreement.

Riot Games, for its part, refused to give in to the demands of its employees after the walkout in May, though it did pledge to allow new hires the option to waive the forced arbitration clause for sexual harassment and assault “once current litigation was resolved.”


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