Riot Games has agreed to pay $100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in November 2018 by former employees for alleged gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. The League of Legends publisher was set to pay just $10 million per preliminary settlement in 2019, but the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing went to court to block the deal. $10 million was far too little, the agency argued, and the women who sued the company would be entitled to as much as $400 million.
The lawsuit was originally filed by Melanie McCracken and Jess Negrón after a Kotaku report exposed the developers’ “men-first” and “bro” corporate culture. In the report, Kotaku details employee experiences within the company, such as instances of “genital grabbing” and senior leaders passing lists of employees they would sleep with. A former employee who left the company because of sexism said working for Riot was like “working for a giant brotherhood.”
Under the terms of the settlement, $80 million will go to members of the class-action lawsuit, while $20 million will go to plaintiffs’ legal costs. All California employees and contractors who identify as women and who have worked at Riot from November 2014 to the present are eligible to receive a payout. Those who have been with the company longer get a bigger discount than newer employees. And there are quite a few newer ones — while in 2019 only about 1,000 employees were eligible for a payout, there are now about 2,300 eligible employees. In a statement, the developer told The Washington Post:
“Three years ago, Riot was at the center of what became a reckoning in our industry. We had to face the fact that despite our best intentions, we had not always lived up to our values. As a company, we were at a crossroads; we can overcome the shortcomings of our deny culture, or we can apologize, correct course and build a better Riot We chose the latter… While we are proud of how far we have come since 2018, we must also take responsibility for the past We hope that this arrangement appropriately recognizes those who had negative experiences at Riot.”
In addition to paying $100 million, Riot Games must also hire a third-party expert to “conduct a gender/gender equality analysis of the aggregate compensation, allocation and promotion outcomes for California employees.” Riot must also enable pay transparency and will have to be monitored for three years by a third party, who will monitor issues such as HR complaints and pay equality. The monitor can recommend changes to the company that can make Riot.
Genie Harrison, the women’s rights attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement:
“This is a great day for the women of Riot Games – and for women at all video game and technology companies – who deserve a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. We appreciate Riot’s introspection and work since 2018 to create a more diverse and inclusive company, its willingness to take responsibility for its past and its commitment to fairness and equality in the future.Together with the DFEH and DLSE, the brave women of Riot who carried the torch of justice achieved a precedent-setting result that stands as a beacon to other women and as a warning that employers should pay women better and treat them fairly, or else be held accountable.”
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