Riot Games logo

Riot COO suspended without pay for ‘inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour’

Riot Games’ chief operating officer, Scott Gelb, has received a two-month unpaid suspension following an investigation into misconduct.

According to an email received by Kotaku (thanks, PC Gamer), staff received an internal email from CEO Nicolo Laurent advising employees that allegations of Gelb’s "inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour" – said to have included "ball-tapping (flicking or slapping testicles), farting on employees or humping them for comedic effect" – had now been substantiated by Riot’s investigations.

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, one current and one former Riot Games employee 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.

"As I have mentioned, we are committed to protecting Rioters’ privacy and the integrity of the investigation process," states Laurent’s recent email. "This means that you will not hear me or any other leader discuss individual cases. Having said that, we made a very rare exception in the case of our COO, Scott Gelb. There are factors that collectively drive this exception. The Special Committee of the Board of Directors has specifically requested that one of Scott’s consequences be highly visible. Scott holds one of the most senior roles at Riot and is held to a higher level of accountability and visibility, therefore certain consequences are going to be very visible to Rioters. It’s for these reasons I feel it’s necessary to make an exception.

"There were claims made about Scott engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour, particularly during the early days of Riot. And some of these claims were, in fact, substantiated. The conduct alleged in these claims is not acceptable.

"Scott could have avoided owning his past and his consequences," Laurent concluded. "He could have left Riot. Scott chose ownership and redemption. I will root for him, will support him through this journey, and will leverage him as a great leader when he returns next year. I hope you will join me."

Several current Riot employees interviewed by Kotaku are unsatisfied with the outcomes of Riot’s investigation. "For Riot leadership, protecting their awful friends matters more than protecting their vulnerable employees. And that isn’t going to change unless the workers do something about it directly," said one. Another employee described the sanctions as “a tiny slap on the wrist. . . I think this is also not respectful towards people that were hurt or offended by his behaviour.”

Another current employee, who believes that Gelb should be “demoted or outright fired,” told Kotaku that unpaid leave "may barely feel like punishment to somebody who likely made loads of money off his early involvement in Riot".

"This person is in charge of a lot of people and it’s clear that he has giant lapses in judgment…" she said. "I would say across the board it’s pretty unsatisfying."

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.

Check Also

The Building of Bastion, Part 2

After speaking to founders and former employees last issue, Richie Shoemaker sits down with three of Bastion’s johnny-come-latelies, for a view of the veteran PR agency’s more recent and soon-to-be history