Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent is being sued for sexual harassment by his former executive assistant Sharon O’Donnell. O’Donnell, who was fired by the League of Legends and Valorant developer in July 2020, alleges that Laurent asked her to “cum” over to his house while his wife was away, commented on her physical appearance, asked her underwear size, and further slimy behaviour. For rebuffing his advances, O’Donnell claims that she was punished and went unpaid for hours worked before eventually being fired from her position. The suit was filed in the Superior Court for the State of California in Los Angeles in January 2021.
The lawsuit claims that “Shortly after Plaintiff was hired the Defendant Laurent began a pattern of harassing Plaintiff based on her sex or gender. This continued until the end of her employment.” Laurent’s behaviour was not limited to O’Donnell, but extended to telling female employees that they should have children to handle the stress of living through the Covid pandemic.
In response to a request for comment by VICE, Riot Games stated that Laurent continues to work:
“In this case, because some of the claims relate to an executive leader, a special committee of our Board of Directors is overseeing the investigation, which is being conducted by an outside law firm. Our CEO has pledged his full cooperation and support during this process, and we’re committed to ensuring that all claims are thoroughly explored and appropriately resolved.
“One subject we can address immediately is the plaintiff’s claim about their separation from Riot. The plaintiff was dismissed from the company over seven months ago based on multiple well-documented complaints from a variety of people. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
The lawsuit does not directly target Riot Games, but it certainly fits with the reports, allegations, court cases and settlements that have come out of a toxic workplace over the last few years. Following reports company was sued in 2018 for gender discrimination, which they eventually announced in late 2019 would be settled for $10 million… except they’ve now backtracked and sought to take the case back to individual arbitration.
In July 2020, Laurent wrote an open letter amidst the swell in accusations emerging from across the industry, addressing the steps the company had taken since 2018, taking disciplinary action, hiring Diversity & Inclusion staff, bringing a woman onto the board of directors and more. He offered his resignation if the board were not satisfied with the company’s progress, and in the letter said, “As I write this, I’m thankful we made sufficient progress that the board kept me on. But more importantly, I’m proud of the Riot we have become, and that we continue to evolve every day.”
However, as uplifting as that letter was, the timing now seems somewhat ironic. The lawsuit maintains that “Riot Games is a male dominated culture. Female employees, including Plaintiff are discriminated against, harassed and treated as second class citizens. There are very few female executives at Riot.