Riot Games settles sexual harassment litigation for $100M

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Riot Games has settled its sexual harassment litigation for $100 million as part of a global settlement to end the three-year-old litigation.

The publisher of League of Legends and Valorant had previously settled the litigation in 2019 for $10 million, but the California State Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) intervened and said the amount of money was too low. While the state agency wanted the settlement to be $400 million, the actual settlement is a lot more, with $80 million going to women who joined the class-action lawsuit against Riot Games and $20 million for attorney’s fees and other expenses.

Riot Games has also pledged to have its internal reporting and pay equity processes monitored by a third party jointly approved by Riot and the DFEH for three years.

The allegations of gender discrimination arose in 2018 after gaming news/culture site Kotaku exposed what its reporting found as a toxic and sexist culture at Riot. The story described a “men first” “bro culture” in which women were regularly subjected to offensive behavior by fellow employees and managers.

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In an internal email, the company it believes “this is the right thing to do, for both the company and those whose experiences at Riot fell short of our standards and values.”

The company also said, “We also hope it demonstrates our desire to lead by example in our industry. Over the last three years, we’ve made significant upgrades to our People and D&I practices. We’ve seen the positive impact from these improvements both in our internal Global Rioter Survey and in external anonymous surveys like Great Place to Work.”

Los Angeles-based Riot announced it reached the agreement with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), and several private plaintiffs to resolve the class-action gender discrimination litigation originally initated as “McCracken vs Riot Games” in 2018.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Riot will pay $80 million to the class, which encompasses all current and former full-time employees and temporary agency contractors in California who identify as women and worked anytime from November 2014 to present.

The payment, which will resolve all claims, will be made to a settlement fund and distributed among the class as approved by the Court, pending court approval.

Final approval of the settlement by the court is pending, with a hearing expected in the coming months. Riot Games is represented in this case by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. The Genie Harrison Law Firm APC and JML Law APLC represent the plaintiffs in the class.

In a statement, Riot said, “Three years ago, Riot was at the heart of what became a reckoning in our industry. We had to face the fact that despite our best intentions, we hadn’t always lived up to our values. As a company we stood at a crossroads; we could deny the shortcomings of our culture, or we could apologize, correct course, and build a better Riot. We chose the latter. We’re incredibly grateful to every Rioter who has worked to create a culture where inclusivity is the norm, where we’re deeply committed to fairness and equality, and where embracing diversity fuels creativity and innovation.”

The company added, “While we’re proud of how far we’ve come since 2018, we must also take responsibility for the past. We hope that this settlement properly acknowledges those who had negative experiences at Riot and demonstrates our desire to lead by example in bringing more accountability and equality to the games industry.”

The Genie Harrison Law Firm, which represented women in the case, said in a statement, “This is a great day for the women of Riot Games – and for women at all video game and tech companies – who deserve a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination,” said Genie Harrison. “We appreciate Riot’s introspection and work since 2018 toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive company, its willingness to take responsibility for its past, and its commitment to continued fairness and equality in the future.”

And Joseph Lovretovich of JML Law said in a statement, “I’m honored to represent the resilient women of Riot Games and to help achieve this settlement on their behalf. We hope women everywhere take note and demand the fair pay and treatment to which they are entitled under the law.”

The lawsuit settlement signals what Activision Blizzard could face in its own litigation with the DFEH and others over sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed this year against another video game giant.

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