Though Riot Games recently agreed to a $10 million (£7.6m) collective settlement to female employees who worked at the company over the last five years, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement have now intervened, prompting California regulators to request the company set aside a $400 million (£305m) instead.
According to the LA Times, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing – which launched its own investigation into Riot last year, too – added that “the non-monetary terms of the settlement also seemed inadequate”, stating that “no enforceable changes to employment policies, at a company alleged to be rife with sexism, are part of the settlement.”
“We worked hard to negotiate with the lawyer representing the class to reach an agreement that we collectively believe is fair for the class members,” Riot spokesperson Joe Hixson told the LA Times. “Now DFEH is trying to disrupt that agreement in a legal filing that is filled with inaccuracies and false allegations.
“We are particularly dismayed that the filing downplays and ignores the efforts we have made with respect to diversity, inclusion, and culture over the past 18 months. The Settlement Agreement includes a long list of the dozens of meaningful initiatives and changes we have made, including updates to our policies, in response to Kotaku’s reporting and the class action lawsuit. We believe that these initiatives demonstrate a real commitment to actual change that goes well above and beyond what most companies would have done in a similar situation.”
Riot Games says it has not yet filed a response to the state agency but plans to later this week. Further court hearings are scheduled for January 31st and February 3rd, 2020.
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.
It culminated in 200 Riot Games employees walking out in May 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.
In a statement made at the time of the settlement, Riot said: “We made a commitment to Rioters that we would be willing to take the steps necessary to build trust and to demonstrate that we’re serious about Riot evolving into an excellent place to work for all Rioters. Under these circumstances, we’ve had to look critically at our litigation approach to the class action lawsuit. 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. 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.
“As such, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve come to an agreement in principle to settle the class action lawsuit against Riot.”