One former and one current employee of Riot Games are suing the League Of Legends developers, claiming they have “been denied equal pay and found their careers stifled because they are women” as well as having suffered in that festering workplace culture of sexual discrimination and harrassment. They accuse Riot of behaviour including “violation of the California Equal Pay Act” and “failure to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment & Housing Act”. While Riot did this year publicly admit they had huge problems, a jury might decide quite how much the company are responsible (is the answer “very”? it seems like it’s very). Riot say they don’t comment on ongoing legal matters but do “take every allegation of this nature seriously and investigate them thoroughly.”
In August, an excellent report on Kotaku spoke to many current and former Riot employees to build a picture of a company with a real “bro culture” problem, where women have found their careers stifled, men have discussed how fuckable their female colleagues are, inappropriate jokes are rife, men have sent unsolicited pictures of their dicks to colleagues, a senior member would fart in the faces of other male employees, complaints about misbehaviour were often ignored or even punished, and… so much more.
The lawsuit filed on Monday, as reported by Kotaku, lists many of these behaviours and more – along with some truly shocking stuff I’m hearing for the first time.
“A former male employee was allowed to remain in a position of leadership despite regularly making sexual comments in the workplace and drugging and raping another Riot Games’ employee,” the suit alleges. Christ.
All of this builds to Riot violating a number of California laws, the class action lawsuit says, and the plaintiffs are seeking damages.
Following Kotaku’s report, Riot issued a public statement vowing to “rebuild” their culture and “leave no room for sexism or misogyny” as they “become a leader on diversity, inclusion, and culture.” Which would be a pretty major rebuild, considering how deep the problems seem to run. Riot said “we’ve never backed down from a challenge before and we don’t plan to start now,” forgetting that they’d spent years pretending the problem didn’t exist. What they did next said a lot about how seriously they took the problem.
One week after that, Riot fired at least one employee for publicly (though crudely) tweeting out against the backlash to Riot’s PAX West panels that were only open to female and non-binary audience members. And to help with crisis management, they brought in a law firm renowned for union-busting, Seyfarth Shaw. Then a Kotaku follow-up a fortnight after Riot’s vow reported that several high-ranking employees known for their bad behaviour (chief operating officer Scot Gelb was reportedly the face-farter) were still at the company. Riot’s statement talked big, but their visible actions don’t seem to back it up.
The suit alleges that “even though the issues plaguing Riot Games have come to light in a public forum, Riot Games [are] simply sweeping this allegations under the rug with empty investigations and counselling, while protecting the bad actors from any repercussion.” So they’re taking ’em to court, calling out specific labour laws they believe Riot have violated, and seeking damages. The two core plaintiffs have specific claims about their specific experiences, but the class action also covers any current or former women employed by Riot who have been harassed, discriminated, and retaliated against because of their gender or sex over the past four years. That could be a lot of people.
“While we do not discuss the details of ongoing litigation, we can say that we take every allegation of this nature seriously and investigate them thoroughly,” Riot responded in a statement provided to Kotaku. “We remain committed to a deep and comprehensive evolution of our culture to ensure Riot is a place where all Rioters thrive.”