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Verdicts & Settlements

California Wants Riot Games to Pay $400m in Sex Discrimination Settlement

— January 22, 2020

California says that Riot Games hasn’t done nearly enough to pay back its accusers.

California will intervene in a class action settlement with Riot Games.

According to The Hill, the state has stepped in against the lawsuit, which accuses the video game developer of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Riot Games reached a tentative agreement with female employees late last year, agreeing to pay a total of $10 million in damages.

However, California says $10 million isn’t nearly enough: following input from two state agencies, California is demanding that Riot pay an estimated $400 million.

The state justified its decision by pointing out discrepancies in the settlement. Along the total pay-out, California notes that the agreement doesn’t go beyond issuing monetary damages. The state observed that “no enforceable changes to employment policies, at a company alleged to be rife with sexism, are part of the settlement.”

The Hill reports that a Riot Games spokesperson told the outlet that it hasn’t yet filed a response to the motion but plans to later this week. In an e-mail to The Hill, Riot Games claimed it was disappointed by California’s decision to pursue harsher terms.

Cash; image courtesy of Maklay62 via Pixabay,

“We are particularly dismayed that the filing downplays and ignores the efforts we have made with respect to diversity, inclusion, and culture over the past 18 months,” Riot said in its statement. “The Settlement Agreement includes a long list of the dozens of meaningful initiatives and changes we have made, including updates to our policies, in response to Kotaku’s reporting and class action lawsuit. We believe that these initiatives demonstrate a real commitment to actual change that goes well above and beyond what most companies would have done in a similar situation.”

The lawsuit, adds The Hill, was filed in November 2018 by two female former employees. Both said they’d been repeatedly harassed at Riot’s studio and were denied promotions for speaking up.

In a mid-2018 expose, interviewed female Riot employees, who said it was obvious the studio discriminated against female talent.

“Across the board, you’d have side-by-side similar backgrounds,” said on woman, identified pseudonymously as Lacy. “But the leadership team would constantly ixnay any female candidate for leadership.”

Lacy said the excuses were varied: evaluation teams would decry some women as “ladder climbs,” others as too egoistic. Most, says Kotaku, weren’t “gamer enough” for Riot’s corporate culture.

Lacy told Kotaku of other incidents, too. She received frequent, unsolicited comments on her appearance; some of her coworkers implied she only had a job because she was attractive. Her boss, too, repeatedly commented “in public meetings about how her kids and husband must really miss her while she was at work.”

Other women gave Kotaku similar complaints, claiming that Riot’s “bro culture” led to an under-representation of well-qualified women within its ranks.

The lawsuit was filed shortly after the Kotaku expose.

Today, Riot Games claims it’s made great progress. In an August statement, released shortly after the preliminary settlement was announced, the studio said it “can confidently state that gender discrimination (in pay or promotion), sexual harassment, and retaliation are not systemic issues at Riot.”

The Hill notes that hearings to address the state’s recommendations will be held on 31 January and 3 February.


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