200 Riot Games employees have staged a walkout following revelations that the company was trying to block a class-action sex discrimination lawsuit by insisting some of the women involved had agreed to arbitration clauses when they signed their employment contracts.
“Talk of a walkout has been brewing among a number of folks with varying levels of investment since Kotaku’s first article hit, and leadership consistently promised transparency /actions to be taken and then did not deliver on that promise,” a source – who’d been granted anonymity since discussing issues could impact their employment – said last week.
Issues about Riot’s alleged unacceptable workplace culture originated after a report by Kotaku took contributions from dozens of members of Riot staff both past and present. While not all female employees have experienced issues, it painted a picture of a studio with a systemic culture of sexism, prompting a formal apology from Riot.
Subsequently, five Riot Games employees – some former, some present – filed a class action lawsuit against the company, alleging the publisher of a “sexually-hostile working environment” that has stifled their pay and career prospects because they are women.
Since then, Riot has agreed to remove such forced arbitration clauses from employment contracts, but the changes will not affect staff already employed with the company – including the women who instigated legal action against the studio.
According to the LA Times (thanks VGC), hundreds of staff staged a walkout of its LA headquarters in protest of the company’s forced arbitration policy and a “culture of sexism” – the “first walkout of its kind” in the American video game industry. A number of workers used a megaphone to “share their hopes and fears for the company — and their own stories of harassment”.
“We are not dissident for the sake of dissidence, we are dissident for the sake of justice, for the sake of Riot living up to its values, and for the sake of making Riot the great place that we all want it to be,” said walkout organiser and Riot researcher Ronnie Blackburn.
“We stand with the current plaintiffs whose alleged abusers remain in leadership positions at Riot,” added Riot writer and fellow walkout organiser, Dylan Buck.
“It’s not an ultimatum so much as a suggestion, but unless we have a clear commitment from leadership you will hear from us again,” said Riot social listening strategist Jocelyn Monahan. “This is not the end of a conversation, this is the beginning of a conversation.”
Walkout organisers say they expect a formal response from Riot by May 16th.