The Los Angeles technology company perhaps best known for its launch of video game League of Legends, has agreed to settle the California class action gender discrimination lawsuit for $10 million. The settlement, which is still pending court approval, will apply to roughly 1,000 women who worked at Riot Games between November 2014 and the date the settlement is finalized. Each employee’s exact cut will depend on how long they worked for the company and whether they were an employee or independent contractor.
Our Los Angeles gender discrimination lawyers understand the workers sued Riot Games, the $1.6 billion company owned by Chinese firm Tencent, alleged violations of the California Equal Pay Act as well as pervasive sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
The lawsuit was filed after a series of in-depth investigations, starting with a piece from gaming website Kotaku.
Examples of Pervasive Sexism at Riot Games
Kotaku interviewed 28 current and former employees at the company for a story published last August. Each said the business fostered a corporate culture of disrespect, hostility and discrimination against female workers. Among the incidents described:
- A female worker presenting an idea she truly believed in at a meeting, only to see it fall flat with management. She decided to “conduct an experiment” and asked a male co-worker who had been at that meeting to pitch the very same idea a week later. Presented by the male colleague, the idea was welcomed enthusiastically by management.
- Both male and female workers reported seeing unsolicited and unwelcome pictures of male genitalia from colleagues or bosses. One senior manager had a reputation for routinely grabbing his genitals.
- One worker reported seeing an email thread shared among her male colleagues about what it would be like to “penetrate” her.
- One worker said she was told as a male colleague that her name was being passed around on a list shared by senior managers indicating which workers they wanted to have sex with. The colleague apparently thought this was a compliment.
- Several employees reported recruiting practices that led them to turn down a disproportionate number of women for positions, particularly if they weren’t considered “core gamers.” The player base of League of Legends is more than 90 percent male. (Women who play often report being targets of harassment by other players. Those who encounter toxic behavior while playing are far less likely to return to the game.)
- Where male recruits were described as having “grit” that was a desirable quality, female recruits were described as “too ambitious” and “aggressive.” Eighty percent of the company’s employees are men.
Two women said they felt pressured to quit after reporting their gender discrimination concerns, and they are the two who later filed the class action lawsuit. They alleged that female workers who spoke out about gender discrimination faced retaliation, which included denial of promotions, refusal to offer higher compensation or equal pay, reassignment with much different responsibilities, loss of benefits, suspensions and even firing.
Company’s Response to Allegations
The company responded to these reports by taking a number of steps to procure more women in leadership, equalize pay gaps and alter the company culture. However, when the firm attempted to force the two main litigants in the gender discrimination case to arbitrate rather than allow their case to be taken to court, employees staged a walkout. More than 150 people exited the developer’s Los Angeles headquarters – the first of its kind in the video game industry. Organizers were partially inspired by the Google walkout over forced arbitration in November 2018.
Although the company has not given into worker demands, it has said it will give new hires the option to waive forced arbitration for claims of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949-375-4734.
Riot Games will pay $10 million to settle gender discrimination suit, Dec. 2, 2019, By Sam Dean, The Los Angeles Times