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Over 150 Riot Games employees walked out to protest forced arbitration

Around 150-200 Riot Games employees walked out from the League Of Legends developers’ Los Angeles studio yesterday, reports say, to protest the company contracts blocking lawsuits. Riot recently tried to shut down two sexual discrimination lawsuits by pointing out employee contracts waive the right to court claims, being forced to settle disputes through arbitration. That’s a private process which is known to benefit employers more than employees. Riot have said they plan to end forced arbitration only in some cases for some staff, which isn’t enough for many – especially given their wider workplace trashculture. So on Monday, loads of folks held a protest for several hours in the office car park.

Kotaku were on the scene, so hit them up for a fuller account of the day. With signs and a megaphone, loads of folks gave talks, expressed discontent, offered support, demonstrated solidarity, and generally put up a protest on a scale that’s mighty rare for the world of megamoney game development.

“We’re asking that forced arbitration be ended for all past, current, and future Riot employees, including contractors and in current litigation,” Jocelyn Monahan, a social listening strategist at Riot and one of the walkout’s organisers, told Kotaku.

The compromise Riot presented last week was to, after they settle the ongoing litigation, give new hires “the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.” They said they’d think about expanding that to current employees and all disputes, but no promises. Which is pretty weak.

While mandatory arbitration was the headline issue for Monday’s protest, it’s also rooted in the workplace problems first reported by Kotaku in 2018. Dozens of employees complained about issues including women feeling excluded, women facing a tougher time advancing their career, male employees openly discussing the fuckability of female colleagues, and one executive routinely farting in other men’s faces and whacking their testicles.

“I’m quitting because I don’t want to see people who were protected by people in high places in Riot,” one Riot employee said in a speech, according to Kotaku’s report, announcing they were leaving in two weeks.

Riot vowed last year that they’d not only fix their problems, they would “become a leader on diversity, inclusion, and culture”. Their actions since then continue to demonstrate that they don’t understand the problem and will protect high-ranking perpetrators.

“It’s been eight months since the original [Kotaku] article was released and so far I haven’t seen a single outcome of our diversity and inclusion efforts at Riot,” an employee told Kotaku last week ahead of the walkout. “I haven’t seen a single metric or number to indicate things have improved and I haven’t seen a single project get finished.”

Riot presented the illusion of support.

“We support Rioters making their voices heard today,” they said in a statement to Variety yesterday. “We have asked all managers to make every accommodation to allow Rioters to participate during the 2-4pm window, including freeing up meeting times. We respect Rioters who choose to walkout today and will not tolerate retaliation of any kind as a result of participating (or not).”

Yet they are still only committing to allowing future employees to opt out of forced arbitration for “individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.” Riot recognise that employees may not want arbitration but they’re still hoping to force it in many cases – and potentially for most employees. They’ve only said they will “commit to have a firm answer around expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters,” remember, so current employees may not benefit at all. That answer could very well be “Nawww.” They may support ‘Rioters’ (please stop using this stupid term for employees) making their voices heard but they don’t really care about what they’re saying.

Riot’s Dublin office have a walkout planned for today, yesterday having been the May Day holiday in Ireland.

Thousands of Google employees staged a walkout in November 2018 to protest forced arbitration and, similarly, sexual misconduct. Google announced in February that they would end forced arbitration.

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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