Riot Games, the creator of “League of Legends,” will pay $10 million to settle a class action suit that accused the company of fostering a sexist work environment. Two employees, one former and one current, filed the suit in California Superior Court in November 2018 accusing Riot of denying them equal pay and blocking their career advancements on the basis of gender.
The suit alleged that Riot created a sexist work environment by fostering “bro culture” that normalized sexual harassment and misogyny aimed at employees of both genders. In December 2018 Riot suspended Chief Operating Officer Scott Gelb for upholding that culture of toxic masculinity, following reports that he had farted on employees and repeatedly hit their genitals as a running joke.
According to reports from ESPN, plaintiffs Jessica Negron and Gabriela Downie will receive the highest payouts from the settlement, $10,000 each. After accounting for legal fees and litigation, approximately $6.2 million in settlement payments will be distributed between the remaining members of the class action suit.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Ryan Saba, told ESPN that the case had resulted in one of the largest gender inequality settlements in California's history.
Riot announced the class action settlement in a joint statement with the plaintiffs on August 23. At the time, Riot said it chose not to pursue litigation in favor of progressing past the dispute as a company.
“While we believed that we had a strong position to litigate, we realized that in the long run, doing what is best for both Riot and Rioters was our ideal outcome,” the company said in a blog post. “Therefore, rather than entrench ourselves and continue to litigate, we chose to pivot and try to take an approach that we believe best demonstrates our commitment to owning our past, and to healing the company so that we can move forward together.”
Read more: The company behind one of the biggest video games in the world was just slammed with a lawsuit alleging its 'bro-culture' created a sexist workplace where women were rated on their 'hotness,' told that 'no doesn't necessarily mean no,' and shown unsolicited photos of male genitalia
Riot has been overhauling its internal policies and company culture since reports of gender discrimination surfaced in August 2018, but some employees have remained critical of its approach. In May more than 100 employees participated in a walk-out of the company's Los Angeles studio to protest a newly introduced forced arbitration policy for workplace disputes.
Rioters Against Forced Arbitration, the employee organization that planned the walkout, issued a statement regarding the settlement as well:
“Settling this class action is a victory for women in games. We believe that this & Riot's policy changes help continue the progress toward equity that we've made over the past year. While this settlement helps bring peace of mind to women at Riot, we want to acknowledge that issues of discrimination and harassment go beyond gender, and acknowledge the victims who aren't covered in this suit.
This settlement is an important step on the journey of making the games industry a more diverse and welcoming place, but the fight is far from over. Making Riot — and the entire industry — more inclusive is an ongoing process, and we are excited to see this big step in the right direction.”
Riot Games still faces an ongoing investigation into concerns of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and unequal pay between men and women at the company. In June, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed an enforcement action against Riot in the Los Angeles County Superior Court to compel Riot to release employee pay information.
Riot pushed back against the department's accusations, claiming that they were cooperating with the review in good faith. The company said it had already provided the requested data to the DFEH and filed the action without giving the company an opportunity to respond.
Riot's Chief Diversity Officer, Angela Roseboro, was hired in February 2019 to help the company repair its internal structure. In August, she reflected on the company's progress since the initial accusations of gender discrimination were reported by the Cecila D'Anastasio of the gaming website Kotaku.
Roseboro said Riot had expanded its leadership and made new efforts to recruit women and minorities. More than 2,500 Riot employees participated in training exercises and the company installed a new set of cultural values.
You can read the full statement announcing the Riot's class action settlement agreement below:
All parties have reached an agreement in principle today to resolve the class action case against Riot Games.
“This is a very strong settlement agreement that provides meaningful and fair value to class members for their experiences at Riot Games,” said Ryan Saba of Rosen Saba, LLP, the attorney representing the plaintiffs. “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. The many Riot employees who spoke up, including the plaintiffs, significantly helped to change the culture at Riot.”
The parties will now move toward seeking court approval of the proposed settlement, and we will provide additional details about its terms when that filing takes place.
“We are grateful for every Rioter who has come forward with their concerns and believe this resolution is fair for everyone involved,” said Nicolo Laurent, CEO of Riot Games. “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.”
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