League of Legends

Riot Games to pay $10 million to settle gender discrimination lawsuit

by Isaac McIntyre
Dania Maxwell for Los Angeles Times

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Riot Games has agreed to pay out $10 million in a proposed settlement, shared collectively between all women who were employed by the League of Legends developers any time since 2014, according to court documents filed this week.

The multimillion-dollar settlement from the Los Angeles studio marks one of the largest in Californian history in regards to gender discrimination suits. The LA Times reported the $10m sum will be paid out to as many as 1,000 employees.

According to the filed documents the settlement, which was first agreed between representatives and the LA game studio in August, will be finalized based on the length of tenure for all Riot employees who self-identify as female.

The documents note two class representatives, Jessica Negron and Gabriela Downie, will each receive $10,000, while full employees are expected to receive a minimum $2,500 from the post-fee ‘kitty’ of $6.2 million.

Contractors will receive a minimum of $500. The filing suggests it is expected most class members will receive at least $5,000 in the payout.

Danny Fortson for the Sunday Times
Danny Fortson for the Sunday Times
Riot has agreed to pay out $10 million to women employed at the company since 2014.

“We’re pleased to have a proposed settlement to fully resolve the class action lawsuit,” a Riot spokesperson said in a statement.

“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.”

As well as the major settlement payout, the agreement also details a host of commitments Riot must agree to, including improvements to internal programs relating to the reporting of sexual harassment and discrimination, and improving company culture.

The Tencent-owned company will be required to undertake a review into pay, promotion, and hiring practices, with aims to “increase fairness and transparency.”

Riot has also followed through on a commitment made in March to implement a dedicated chief diversity officer role within the LA-based offices. Angela Roseboro has reportedly already been hired and began her role with the company.

Settlement Declaration, Rio... on Scribd

The now-settled lawsuit was first submitted after a damning series of exposés, sparked by a February 2019 report from Cecilia D'Anastasio for Kotaku, which detailed a workplace filled to the brim with “sexist behavior.”

The suit alleged that Riot had established a predominant culture of “bro culture” which then facilitated “crotch-grabbing, phantom humping, sending unsolicited and unwelcome pictures of male genitalia,” and the circulation of a “hot girl list” that ranked past and present female employees based on their physical appearance.

Negron and Downie’s suit also alleged any female employees who attempted to question this “men-first” culture were looked over for promotions, refused compensation and pay, and in some cases were even demoted or fired.

The issue came to a head across the media and courtrooms in Spring of this year, with employees at Riot’s West LA campus organizing a mass-walkout. Riot refused the protest demands, but began the proceedings for this December settlement.

Riot Games
Riot Games
Riot reportedly made $1.4 billion through League of Legends alone in 2018/19.

While the payout is being welcomed by many, there are some that have voiced concern senior male employees named in the lawsuit, and were responsible for perpetuating a "harmful workplace" are still working for Riot Games.

"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," one Riot employee told Kotaku.

"It’s difficult to heal and move on when we are faced with the reality that at the end of the day, Riot prefers to pay the women still here for the trouble of continuing to work with alleged abusers."

Chris Yunker
Chris Yunker
Some Riot employees are still calling for more to change within the company.

It is estimated Riot Games, and parent company Tencent, earned $1.4 billion through League of Legends last year. The game studio has now added Legends of Runeterra to its title wheelhouse, with many more also coming on the horizon.

The Central District filing notice confirmed both the plaintiffs and Riot Games have agreed to the preliminary settlement, but the court has yet to approve the document.