Riot Games is under fire in a new sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit.
Earlier this week, Riot Games confirmed it is investigating its CEO, Nicolo Laurent, over allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The complaint was filed by Sharon O’Donnell, a former Riot executive assistant who was fired back in July 2020. As part of the suit, she is seeking compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and general damages.
In response to the suit, Joe Hixson, a spokesperson for Riot, said:
“Core to giving Rioters confidence in our commitment to culture transformation is taking all allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously, thoroughly investigating claims and taking action against anyone who is found to have violated our policies…In this case, because some of the claims relate to an executive leader, a special committee of our Board of Directors is overseeing the investigation, which is being conducted by an outside law firm…Our CEO has pledged his full cooperation and support during this process, and we’re committed to ensuring that all claims are thoroughly explored and appropriately resolved.”
O’Donnell began working for Riot in 2017. However, throughout her employment, she was allegedly “yelled at by Laurent and was consistently told to watch her tone by the CEO.” On top of that, the suit accuses Laurent of “telling female employees the best method to handle stress during the COVID-19 pandemic was to have kids,” and the suit argued, “Laurent made sexual advances toward her and asked O’Donnell to travel with him outside of work.”
When she declined his offer, Laurent allegedly “yelled at her and later had her work duties taken away.” From there, “she was criticized by the CEO for her tone.” O’Donnell said she believes she was fired because she complained to the company’s HR department about Laurent’s advances.
In addition to the allegations of sexual harassment, O’Donnell’s suit notes she was a non-exempt worker covered by the wage and hour laws of the California Labor Code and the applicable Wage Orders. However, she was treated like an exempt worker, which meant “she did not receive the benefits constituted by the labor code in California.” For example, she “should have been paid for all hours of her work, received meal breaks/rest breaks and been paid for overtime,” according to the lawsuit. Instead, she was expected to work 10 hours each day, five days a week. She also regularly stayed for overtime and worked on weekends. She didn’t receive payment for the overtime, even though Laurent knew she was working long hours.
When commenting on the lawsuit, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) said, “Riot violated the law in multiple ways regarding its treatment of women in the workplace.”