Riot Games Will Pay $100 million to Settle Discrimination Lawsuit
Inside one of Riot Games’ offices. (Photo: Hughes Marino)Current and former Riot Games employees have found victory in a $100 million payout soon to be made by the video game publisher. In settling a three-year discrimination class action lawsuit, Riot has agreed to issue a total of $80 million to the settlement class and cover $20 million in legal fees.
Employees’ legal battle with Riot began back in 2018, when one then-current and one former employee initiated a class action lawsuit on the basis of unequal pay, discrimination in hiring practices, and sexual harassment. According to a Kotaku report released around the same time, the employees alleged that Riot routinely came up with excuses not to hire women into leadership roles and preferred ideas suggested by male employees, even after female employees had already presented those same ideas. One of the two employees had been told several times by her own boss that her “cute” appearance contributed to her ability to obtain her role; another manager consistently told this employee that her husband and children must have really missed her while she was at work.
As it turns out, the harassment and discrimination didn’t stop with those two initial employees. Kotaku’s investigative reporting found that many others had received unsolicited nude photos from bosses, on top of having been asked sexually explicit questions by colleagues. At one point, senior leaders circulated a list of female employees they’d be interested in sleeping with. The culture very much made working at Riot feel like “working at a giant fraternity,” as one female source put it.
In an effort to settle back in 2019, Riot originally offered qualifying female employees (both current and former) a $10 million payout. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) rejected Riot’s proposal, saying those who qualified could receive up to $400 million combined for enduring the alleged offenses.
The DFEH has endorsed the latest settlement offer, which provides a total of $80 million to 1,065 female Riot employees and 1,300 female contractors. The other $20 million will go toward covering legal expenses incurred since the start of the lawsuit. The company has also agreed to systemically reform its company culture in ways that include “independent expert analysis of Riot’s pay, hiring, and promotion practices, and independent monitoring of sexual harassment and retaliation at Riot’s California offices for three years.”
The publisher’s settlement comes just months after competitor Activision Blizzard found itself under fire for similarly egregious harassment and discrimination claims. “While we’re proud of how far we’ve come since 2018, we must also take responsibility for the past,” Riot said in a statement. “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.”