Riot Games has agreed to pay $100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in November 2018 by former employees alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. The League of Legends publisher was only going to pay $10 million per the preliminary settlement in 2019, but the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing went to court to block the agreement. $10 million was much too small, the agency argued, and the women suing the company could be entitled to as much as $400 million.
The lawsuit was originally filed by Melanie McCracken and Jess Negrón after a Kotaku report exposed the developers' "men-first" and "bro" company culture. In the report, Kotaku detailed employees' experiences within the company, such as instances of "genital grabbing" and senior leaders passing around lists of employees they would sleep with. One former employee who left the company due to sexism said working for Riot was like "working at a giant fraternity."
Under the terms of the settlement, $80 million will go towards members of the class-action lawsuit, while $20 million will go towards the plaintiffs' legal fees. All employees and contractors in California who identify as women and who worked at Riot between November 2014 until present day qualify for a payout. Those who've been with the company longer will get a bigger cut than newer workers. And there are quite a lot of newer ones — while only around 1,000 workers were qualified for a payout in 2019, there are now around 2,300 eligible personnel. In a statement, the developer told The Washington Post:
"Three years ago, Riot was at the heart of what became a reckoning in our industry. We had to face the fact that despite our best intentions, we hadn’t always lived up to our values. As a company we stood at a crossroads; we could deny the shortcomings of our culture, or we could apologize, correct course, and build a better Riot. We chose the latter... While we'e proud of how far we’ve come since 2018, we must also take responsibility for the past. We hope that this settlement properly acknowledges those who had negative experiences at Riot."
In addition to paying $100 million, Riot Games is also required to get a third-party expert to conduct "sex/gender equity analysis of total compensation, assignment and promotion outcomes for California employees." Riot must also allow pay transparency and will have to be monitored by a third party, who'll keep an eye on things like HR complaints and pay equity, for three years. The monitor will be able to recommend changes to the company that Riot can implement.
Genie Harrison, the women's rights attorney who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement:
"This is a great day for the women of Riot Games – and for women at all video game and tech companies – who deserve a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination. We appreciate Riot’s introspection and work since 2018 toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive company, its willingness to take responsibility for its past, and its commitment to fairness and equality in the future. Along with the DFEH and DLSE, the brave women of Riot who carried the torch of justice have achieved a precedent-setting result that stands as a beacon for other women and as a warning that employers had better pay and treat women fairly, or else be held accountable."