League of Legends developer ready to leave past behind

17:00, 03 Dec 2019

Riot Games has reached a preliminary settlement in the gender discrimination suit brought against it by former female employees. The class-action’s settlement had already been announced earlier this year, but new filings have yielded further details. According to these, the company will pay $10 million dollar in remuneration, divided between every woman it has employed since 2014.

To understand the significance of this news, let's look at how we got here.

In August 2018 Kotaku published an expose on what it called a culture of sexism permeating the League of Legends developer's work environment. In it, current and former employees spoke of a workplace that felt more like a fraternity, where women were marginalized and harassed.

In response, the company published a seven-step plan aiming to "change its cultural DNA". According to the document, Riot recognized that change was necessary, but that it would not happen overnight.

Sixteen months later, those words seem prophetic

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Throughout its transition, the developer has stumbled repeatedly. Its women and non-binary participant exclusive panel at PAX West, held weeks after the initial report, was thought discriminatory in its own right. Its two month suspension of COO Scott Gelb for inappropriate behaviour was seen as cosmetic.

Meanwhile frustrations amongst employees grew. Quoted by the Los Angeles Times, one said:

"I feel a lot of people are silently giving up. There's a lot of sadness and resignation to the fact that nothing permanent or meaningful is going to happen."

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The discontent boiled over in May of this year, after the company tried to move a number of the lawsuits it was facing behind closed doors. This decision caused over a 150 employees to walk out of work. Riot Games then conceded to make the clause allowing it to do this opt-out in new contracts, but in light of on-going litigation would not repent for earlier hires.

If this new settlement is approved by the court, said litigation will come to an end with at least some measure of justice for the victims. But it too comes with caveats. Reportedly, it will not include women who signed releases or took severance when they exited the company, for example. One also wonders what will now happen to the arbitration clauses.

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The good news is that a follow-up investigation earlier this year found that the Riot is finally making real progress. But, like this settlement, these are single victories in a larger campaign. Let's hope 2020 will bring many more.

 

Image Credit - Chris Yunker | Flickr

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