Riot Games is facing a workplace crisis. Following reports that the company was trying to block lawsuits brought by its employees, staff members are now planning to stage a walkout.
On Friday, Kotaku published an article detailing a motion filed by Riot to force two female employees, who had previously filed lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, to enter into private arbitration with the studio instead of pursuing legal action. The motion refers to an employment contract clause that stipulates that the alternative, in-house process must be followed, forgoing conventional judge-and-jury litigation and potential outside scrutiny.
The lawsuits stem from extensive investigations into what is described as highly toxic and misogynist working conditions at Riot. The League of Legends developer came under heavy fire in August 2018 thanks to an explosive expose published by Kotaku. Since then, the investigations have resulted in five lawsuits being filed against the studio, with some alleging that it had violated the California Equal Pay Act. Two employees were also fired for speaking up about the issue on Twitter. Riot was quick to react to the initial investigation. It issued a public apology and promised that changes would be made to improve its workplace mentality. However, it has retained several of the men accused of misogynistic conduct, including it’s COO Scott Gelb. The studio also brought in former Dropbox executive Angela Roseboro to serve as its Chief Diversity Officer, but that has done little to improve conditions.
In response to the motions, studio employees are considering staging a full walkout. According to internal Slack messages and two employees who spoke anonymously with Waypoint, the organizational efforts of the walkout are not a recent development. “Talk of a walkout has been brewing among a number of folks with varying levels of investment since Kotaku’s first article hit,” said one of the sources. “And leadership consistently promised transparency/actions to be taken and then did not deliver on that promise.”
In response to the talks, Roseboro sent out an internal message:
“We’re also aware there may be an upcoming walkout and recognize some Rioters are not feeling heard. We want to open up a dialogue on Monday and invite Rioters to join us for small group sessions where we can talk through your concerns, and provide as much context as we can about where we’ve landed and why. I know yesterday’s [Kotaku] article about Riot’s motion to compel arbitration feels like we’re not moving forward. And I have to say for me, it demonstrates we still have work to do. There are pros, cons, and nuances to the discussion of arbitration, especially given the active litigation against Riot. It can be complex so these types of topics are best discussed live where it’s easier to have a conversation.”
In a statement sent to Polygon, Riot also acknowledged the walkout and lawsuit motions. However, they stopped short of providing further insight. “While we won’t discuss details about ongoing litigation, we look forward to resolving all matters through the appropriate processes,” the statement read. “Our commitment to building and sustaining a world class, inclusive culture at Riot is unchanged and we value everyone who has come forward to help us become a better company.”