Update: Riot responds to claims it ‘will not change employee agreements’ following walkout

UPDATE (May 20th, 2019): In an email to MCV, Riot Games has clarified that while the staff walkout has not seen changes to the arbitration conditions in existing employment contracts of Riot staff, a number of other changes – including a new staff council and a review of its code of conduct – “wouldn’t have happened” without the staff walkout.

“Arbitration was just one topic that Rioters spoke about last week, but there are many other D&I (diversity and inclusion) work streams in progress and in the planning stages,” Riot said via a statement. “Last week’s walkout and related discussions proves that we’re stronger when we leverage the diverse viewpoints of all of Riot; Rioters are passionate and to meet our goals as one team, we need to channel that passion into productive dialogue that accelerate progress and drive change—or at a minimum, mutual understanding.”

Consequently, Riot says it has created a new forum – the D&I Rioters Council – to “leverage a group of engaged, thoughtful Rioters from teams across the company to participate in formal discussions on D&I”. The company has also invited a “diverse group of Rioter”s to participate in reviewing aspects of its Code of Conduct.

“Rather than bringing the new code of conduct to Rioters as a finished product, we want representatives of Riot involved in the process, much in the way we drafted our values last year (though we’ll admit that to hit our 30 day goal on this project we’re going to be limited in who we include in this process),” Riot said.

Original story (May 17th, 2019): Despite a mass walkout of staff last week and promises to remove forced arbitration clauses from employment contracts going forward, Riot Games is still refusing to extend the changes to staff already employed with the company – including the women who instigated legal action against the studio following a class-action sex discrimination lawsuit.

200 Riot Games employees staged a walkout earlier this month following revelations that the company was trying to block the lawsuit by insisting some of the women involved had agreed to arbitration clauses when they signed their employment contracts.

As Bloomberg reports, employees are less likely to win cases in arbitration than in court.

“Ultimately, given the complexities of ongoing litigation, we will not change our employee agreements while in active litigation,” the company said in a statement to Bloomberg following a Town Hall meeting with workers at its Los Angeles headquarters yesterday evening. “We know not everyone agrees with this decision, but we also know everyone does want Riot to continue to improve.”

“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 at the time.

Issues about Riot’s alleged unacceptable workplace culture came to light following a report by Kotaku that 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.

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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