Riot Games concludes investigation into CEO over gender discrimination allegations

riot games lawsuit league of legends valorantChris Yunker Flickr

Valorant and League of Legends studio, Riot Games are investigating CEO Nicolo Laurent for gender discrimination and sexual harassment claims after a labor lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Courts.

Update March 16

Riot Games announced that it’s independent, third-party investigation into Sharon O’Donnell’s allegations of misconduct against CEO Nicolas Laurent has concluded and found no wrongdoing.

“We concluded that there was no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against the plaintiff,” the Special Committee looking into the matter said.  As such, they recommended to the Board of Directors that “no action should be taken against Laurent.”

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Riot Games
Riot’s public statement following the Special Committee’s findings on the allegations.

The CEO commented after the recent findings were announced.

“The allegations of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation involving me are not true. Nothing of that nature, or even remotely close to it, ever happened,” he said. “I’ve pledged my cooperation, total transparency, and provided access to anything requested. I can say with certainty that if these allegations were true, the Special Committee would have recommended my termination and the board would have fired me.”

O’Donnell’s suit still remains in the courts, and the company will now “use every legal avenue at our disposal to see this case through and ensure that Riot and Nicolo are absolved.”

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Original story follows below.

The pending case was filed by Sharon O’Donnell January 7 in L.A.’s Stanley Mosk Courthouse, with Riot Games and Laurent attached as the two defendants.

O’Donnell was an Executive Assistant at Riot Games in 2017 and worked there until July 2020. She is now suing her former company for lost wages, medical expenses, and general damages related to her employment, outlined in the suit.

During her time at Riot, she claims she would work 10-hour days with many overtimes and weekend hauls dispersed throughout. She’s now seeking recompense for hours that have so far gone unpaid.

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Nicolas Laurent Riot GamesWilliam Audureau for Le Monde
CEO Nicolas Laurent is under investigation by Riot Games for sexual discrimination claims.

More directly, the lawsuit also claims “wrongful termination” after O’Donnell was removed from work duties after declining sexual advances by Laurent.

In response to the allegations, Riot Games announced an outside firm will conduct an investigation of the claims and will be handled by a special committee by their Board of Directors.

“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,” a Riot spokesperson told VICE Games.

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The company did make it a point to immediately address the claims of wrongful termination. “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.”

Complaints against Laurent are directly in line with past investigations and lawsuits against Riot Games that claimed there was a culture of misogyny and sexual discrimination throughout the company.

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riot employee walkout discriminationKevin_Hitt Twitter
Riot employees walked out on the company in early May 2019.

Over a hundred Riot employees walked out on May 2019 in protest of the company. 1000 female employees settled a gender discrimination lawsuit in December 2019. Riot paid out $10 million to women of the company and promised to work on creating a more inclusive environment.

In a 2020 open letter, Laurent claimed to have put himself on the chopping block asking Riot’s board to fire him if they “hadn’t made enough progress… to significantly reduce any demographic gaps in terms of Rioters’ sentiment and rate of progression” by January 2020.

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O’Donnell’s’ inquiry for her July 2020 firing will last for a 12-month period in which investigations by labor commissions will investigate Laurent and Riot Games.

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