Esports giant Riot settles discrimination case for $100M

Sports

FILE – Competitors play in a “League of Legends” championship series video game competition at the Penny Arcade Expo, a fan-centric celebration of gaming, in Seattle on Aug. 29, 2014. On Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, Riot Games, the publisher behind the esports game, agreed to pay $100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging pay disparity, gender discrimination and sexual harassment. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Riot Games, the publisher behind esports giant “League of Legends,” agreed Monday night to pay $100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging pay disparity, gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

The lawsuit was filed in November 2018 after gaming website Kotaku published a story detailing a sexist culture at Los Angeles-based Riot Games that included women being passed over for promotions, unwanted sexual advances and men questioning women about the legitimacy of their video game fandom. Other former employees later came forward with similar claims.

The California Department of Fair Employment said the suit will remedy violations against more than 1,000 female employees and 1,300 female contract workers. Riot has also agreed to improve conditions and provide a more equitable workplace for female employees and applicants.

“I am so glad we achieved this first step toward justice for the women of Riot Games,” former employee and plaintiff Jes Negron said in a statement. “I hope this case serves as an example for other studios and an inspiration for women in the industry at large. Women in gaming do not have to suffer inequity and harassment in silence — change is possible.”

“League of Legends” is the world’s most popular esport, and Riot Games operates its 12 professional international leagues. The publisher said in November the player base for games in the “League of Legends” universe had surpassed 180 million players per month.

The lawsuit filed in November 2018 alleged equal pay violations, gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation toward female employees. A settlement of $10 million was reached in December 2019, but two California agencies — the departments of Fair Employment and Housing and Labor Standards Enforcement — opposed it based on the belief it was rushed.

New counsel was hired, and just over two years later, Monday’s agreement was announced by Riot and the plaintiffs’ new lawyers.

Riot has agreed to hire a third-party expert to conduct an equity analysis of its employment practices, granted pay transparency, and created a $6 million cash reserve to fund diversity, equity and inclusion programs each of the next three years, among other changes.

In a statement, Riot said the company “was at the heart of what became a reckoning in our industry” and it “hadn’t always lived up to our values.”

“While we’re proud of how far we’ve come since 2018, we must also take responsibility for the past,” it said. “We hope that this settlement properly acknowledges those who had negative experiences at Riot and demonstrates our desire to lead by example in bringing more accountability and equality to the games industry.”

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