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Riot Games move to block discrimination lawsuits with arbitration clause

Mere months after declaring new company values for a brighter, more inclusive future, Riot Games – developers of MOBA monolith League Of Legends – are at it again. As reported by Kotaku’s Cecilia D’Anastasio, the company are attempting to force two of the women involved (and still currently employed) in a gender discrimination lawsuit into private arbitration, which would end the legal action. Riot’s attorney argues that the women agreed to arbitration clauses, preventing them from legally challenging their employer. Real impressive values.

It’s endlessly frustrating to hear report after report of awful company culture at Riot. It’s hard to reconcile that the studio responsible for the magical kitty adventure below is seemingly at war with the women working there. Over the past year alone, they’ve had to grudgingly and briefly suspend a chief executive for dry-humping co-workers and have fired people for speaking in favour of diversity panels. This is after they admitted that their workplace culture was a flaming trashpile and vowed to “become a leader on diversity, inclusion and culture”.  In the JPEG-artifacted words of Sweet Bro and/or Hella Jeff, IT KEEPS HAPPENING.

Fortunately, it seems that the plaintiffs suing Riot have picked the right lawyer. Ryan Saba has confirmed (via phone) to Kotaku that he plans to fight this arbitration and push for a full jury trial. In a press release, Saba states that “Today’s actions only serve to silence the voices of individuals who speak out against such misconduct and demonstrate that the company’s words were no more than lip service.”. Riot are unsurprisingly less talkative. At this point, I can’t help but hope this lawsuit succeeds, and encourages others in other companies to do the same. If public shame can’t change a corporation’s ‘company values’, maybe some expensive legal defeats will.

At least there are some smaller studios trying to make things better for their employees, and groups trying to make things better. Unions like Game Workers Unite help, but struggle to gain a foothold in massive corporate studios like this. Perhaps the future lies in studios like Motion Twin (behind the excellent Dead Cells), who are an “anarcho-syndical workers cooperative” (see Kotaku) with no bosses, and where everyone is paid an equal share. Anything has to be better than a notoriously toxic studio that feels internal hearings are going to fix deep-seated problems.

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Dominic Tarason

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