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Current and former employees file class-action sex discrimination complaint against Riot Games

One current and one former Riot Games employee have 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.

The lawsuit – which follows a recent Kotaku investigation into the sexist culture at Riot – asserts Riot has violated California’s Equal Pay Act and permitted gender-based discrimination in the workplace. The complaint further alleges “like many of Riot Games’ female employees […] Plaintiffs have also seen their working conditions negatively impacted because of the ongoing sexual harassment, misconduct, and bias which predominate the sexually-hostile working environment of Riot Games".

As reported by Kotaku, the plaintiffs – Jessica Negron and Melanie McCracken, the latter of which still works at the company – are seeking compensation for "unpaid wages, damages, and other penalties, with an exact amount to be determined at trial", for which the suit "demands" a jury.

The plaintiffs say they want to put an end to Riot’s alleged practice of "paying men more than women who are fulfilling the same job role, promoting men into more superior roles more frequently than women, and demoting women who had similar qualifications as well-compensated men". The lawsuit complaint also says it wants to prevent Riot from “creating, encouraging, and maintaining a work environment that exposes its female employees to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of their gender or sex.”

The lawsuit alleges that Negron took on her job duties without adequate compensation or a change in job title. After three men were hired and left the role whilst she was not offered the chance to interview for the position, she was eventually offered an opportunity to do the job again, but without proper compensation or a job title change. The third of those supervisors told Negron that “diversity should not be a focal point of the design of Riot Games’ products because gaming culture is the last remaining safe haven for white teen boys.”

McCracken believes she was denied promotions, punished by male leadership and refused proper compensation as part of "a trend" in discrimination against women. When McCracken complained to HR about gender-based discrimination at Riot, HR allegedly did not keep the meeting confidential and leaked the information to her supervisor. Subsequently, she was allegedly “given a five-month countdown to find a new position or ‘be fired’”.

Kotaku’s original investigation 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. The pledge went on to list seven steps Riot is taking to ensure it is a workplace that is safe and welcoming for any and all employees or contractors, including establishing a new team for Riot’s Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, training employees, and setting up an anonymous hotline for complaints and investigations.

Despite these commitments, two staff members shortly departed the company following Riot’s PAX West women/non-binary-only panels. Riot asserted it was due to social media policy violations.

In response to the legal case, Riot gave Kotaku the following statement: “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. We remain committed to a deep and comprehensive evolution of our culture to ensure Riot is a place where all Rioters thrive.”

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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