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Riot settles class-action lawsuit alleging the studio of a ‘sexually-hostile working environment’

Riot Games has settled a class-action lawsuit that alleged claims of “gender discrimination in pay and promotion, sexual harassment, and retaliation against women working at Riot offices in California”. 

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, 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.”

In a separate statement (thanks, Eurogamer), Rioters Against Forced Arbitration – the team that organised the walkout in May – added: “Settling this class action is a victory for women in games. We believe that this and Riot’s policy changes help continue the progress toward equity that we’ve made over the past year. While this settlement helps bring peace of mind to women at Riot, we want to acknowledge that issues of discrimination and harassment go beyond gender, and acknowledge the victims who aren’t covered in this suit.

“The decision was made because of the hard work on the part of not only the plaintiffs and their lawyers, but all of the people at Riot brave enough to fight against injustice in the workplace,” the statement concluded, “We are proud to work with everyone who has collectively contributed to making this happen.”

“We realize that this is a path that many companies in our position may not have chosen, but we felt it was the strongest statement we could make to Rioters, and prospective Rioters, that we’re prepared to go over and above in order to move forward,” concluded Riot. “Both sides believe that this proposed settlement, once finalized, is fair for all parties involved. In addition, we’re hopeful that the settlement will allow us to continue our momentum in making Riot a leader in inclusive workplaces.”

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.

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