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Riot Games sued for gender-based discrimination

Written by Gaming

Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, is being sued for gender based discrimination. The lawsuit was filed in California, and the two plaintiffs include one current and one former employee.

They allege that sexist discrimination is rampant at Riot Games, and that the studio is in violation of the California Equal Pay Act – by systematically underpaying women at the company – in addition to not fulfilling promises to address sexist abuse at the company.

The lawsuit, which the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify as class action, stated “Riot Games is simply sweeping these allegations under the rug with empty investigations and counseling”. The suit claims that Riot is even protecting the perpetrators of abuse.

…yet over a month later, Kotaku found that Riot still employed many of the men who were alleged perpetrators…

According to Business Insider the lawsuit alleges that the games company “denied them equal pay and blocked their career advancements on the basis of gender”.

In August, Kotaku reported on the extent of the accusations against Riot Games’ toxic “bro culture”. Kotaku spoke to twenty eight former and current employees during this investigation. One of their sources, Jessica Negron, is now one of the plaintiffs.

Following the extensive report, Riot apologised to current and former employees in a blog post, and made assurances that the studio was committed to making sweeping changes — yet over a month later, Kotaku found that Riot still employed many of the men who were alleged perpetrators, including COO Scott Gelb, who was said to have “grabbed colleagues’ genitals”.

An email chain dedicated to the ranking the “Hottest Women Employees”, and repeated instances where employees joked about masturbation, rape, and torture.

As well as Gelb, Riot still employed a man who was accused of verbally harassing women at the studio, and another man who was the subject of numerous complaints regarding “sexually charged comments” and making advances towards unwilling female employees.

Riot Games is a studio with 2,500 employees, and is 80% male. The lawsuit states that outspoken women who apply for job openings, and existing employees, are dismissed as ‘aggressive’, ‘too ambitious’ and ‘annoying’.

Other examples of the misogynistic environment at the studio, included in the lawsuit, range from bosses sending unsolicited photos of their genitals to employees, an email chain wherein male employees discussed what they imagined it would be like to “penetrate” a certain female colleague, another email chain dedicated to the ranking the “Hottest Women Employees”, and repeated instances where employees joked about masturbation, rape, and torture.

These virulently sexist attitudes are not exclusive to Riot Games, or only the gaming industry.

Plaintiff Jessica Negron’s supervisor at Riot reportedly told her 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”. This statement is clearly incorrect and insulting, as evidence overwhelmingly indicates that white men have historically been privileged above all other groups, and they still wield the majority of socioeconomic power.

Discrimination and harassment at Riot extended to the CEO and co-founder, Brandon Beck, who is accused of saying “no doesn’t necessarily mean no” during an internal meeting. These virulently sexist attitudes are not exclusive to Riot Games, or only the gaming industry (as the #MeToo movement has demonstrated in the past year), but they cannot be tolerated or ignored.

Last modified: 1st September 2019

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