League of Legends developer Riot Games have been in hot legal waters for the last year, as a class action lawsuit was brought against them alleging that employees faced “gender discrimination in pay and promotion, sexual harassment, and retaliation against women”.
Having announced in August their intention to settle, Riot have now proposed a settlement of $10 million USD, to be paid out to all female employees at the company across the last five years, which has reportedly been accepted by the two plaintiffs in the settlement. There’s still some legal hoops to jump through, with the court yet to give its final approval, but this is a big deal for the approximately 1,000 women employed by Riot since 2014. Encompassing both full-time and contract workers, the individual payouts will depend on that status and the length of employment.
Kotaku have received a copy of the settlement, with the plaintiff’s lawyer Ryan Saba claiming it is one of the largest in California history over gender discrimination, with its size in part because of the gender pay gap at the company.
Plaintiffs Melanie McCracken and Jessica Negron stated in the suit that they had been denied equal pay, in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act, that a leaning toward hiring “core gamers” is an veiled method of hiring and promoting men over women, and that Riot Games had failed to make enough changes in the wake of former reporting on a sexist culture.
Saba said, “This shows that Riot is serious about changing the culture at the company,” with Riot saying to Kotaku that “The settlement is another important step forward and demonstrates our commitment to living up to our values and to making Riot an inclusive environment for the Industry’s best talent.”
This follows from the reaction by Rioters Against Forced Arbitration, who organised to protest the issue, who said in August that “Settling this class action is a victory for women in games. We believe that this and Riot’s policy changes help continue the progress toward equity that we’ve made over the past year. While this settlement helps bring peace of mind to women at Riot, we want to acknowledge that issues of discrimination and harassment go beyond gender, and acknowledge the victims who aren’t covered in this suit.”
It’s clear that positive steps have been made by Riot Games following the initial reporting and walkouts from employees, but some problems do still remain. The company has worked hard over the last year to address the culture of sexism, creating a new recruitment, hiring and promotion structure, bringing in third-party culture consusltants and creating a new diversity director role, as well as adding women in leadership roles. However, through all of this, Riot have continued to keep some of the senior male employees that were named in the lawsuit.
A current employee said that, “It’s great that Riot has decided to compensate women for the abuse they suffered here, but their rhetoric about ‘healing and moving on’ leaves something to be desired.”
So, a big step forward, but not necessarily the final word in this story.