Gender-based discrimination has been the topic of many conversations regarding Riot Games, as the League of Legends developer promised a new “zero tolerance policy on discrimination, harassment, and general toxicity.” At least one current and one former employee feel that these words are hollow, taking it upon themselves to launch a class action lawsuit against the developer for cultivating a “men first” environment.
The legal action comes just three months after Kotaku published the findings of its investigation into Riot’s workplace, exposing a persistent sexist culture within. At the time, the developer acknowledged its shortcomings and promised that it was “committed to digging in, addressing every issue, and fixing the underlying causes.” This came to a head in September with the hiring of former Uber vice president, Frances Frei, known for her work in shaping up poor ethics in the workplace.
According to the lawsuit reported by Kotaku, little has changed since the company’s “bro culture” was revealed, suggesting that “Riot Games is simply sweeping these allegations under the rug with empty investigations and counselling, while protecting bad actors from any repercussion.” Although many identified facilitators of toxic behaviour have supposedly been purged from the company, accused perpetrator COO Scott Gelb and other senior staff still remain unaffected.
Co-founder Brandon Beck was once again highlighted for using “no doesn’t necessarily mean no” as a company slogan, and Negron’s former supervisor, Geoff Chandler supposedly stated that “diversity should not be a focal point of the design of Riot Games’ products because gaming culture is the last remaining safe-haven for white teen boys.” The worst accusation, however, states that “a former male employee was allowed to remain in a position of leadership despite regularly making sexual comments in the workplace and drugging and raping another Riot Games employee.”
The claim asserts that discrimination begins at the hiring process, only taking on board candidates considered “core gamers,” a phrase that often excludes women.“Because this hiring practice disproportionately favors men, many qualified women have been denied employment because they were not considered ‘core gamers.’ Female applicants and employees who are outspoken are considered ‘aggressive,’ ‘too ambitious,’ and ‘annoying’,” the suit says.
This leads the way for numerous sexist behaviours, according to the lawsuit. Not only are female employees forced to indulge in “crude male humor” about “sex, defecation, masturbation” and even “rape and torture,” they’re continually objectified in an alleged email chain titled “Riot Games Hottest Women Employees” that discussed penetration.
Plaintiff Jessica Negron states that female employees are often expected to take on duties above their pay grade without compensation, violating California’s Equal Pay Act. In particular, she fulfilled the role of her former manager for a year without the extra pay. Despite a loose promise that the position should be hers, three separate men were hired for the role instead. Once the final participant had left the role, Riot allegedly offered for her to fulfil it once again without the same title and pay her former colleagues were given.
“Like many of Riot Games’ female employees, Plaintiffs have been denied equal pay and found their careers stifled because they are women,” the lawsuit continues. “Moreover, Plaintiffs have also seen their working conditions negatively impacted because of the ongoing sexual harassment, misconduct, and bias which predominate the sexually-hostile working environment of Riot Games.”
The second plaintiff, Melanie McCracken still works at Riot Games, despite highlighting fundamental flaws with the developer’s HR department. Thinking of it as the safe haven employees should for a conflict resolution division, her complaints of sexist behaviour were leaked to the superiors it was against, leading to her being brushed aside for promotions that were supposedly a sure thing.
You can read the full lawsuit here:
KitGuru Says: There are some scathing accusations throughout the lawsuit, many of which reared their head during Kotaku’s investigation. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we will hear from Riot Games until its legal proceedings have been completed.