Riot Games to Pay $100 Million to Settle Class-Action Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Video game company was on track for $10 million settlement until two California employment agencies got involved

Riot Games
Riot Games

“League of Legends” creator Riot Games agreed Monday to pay $100 million to settle a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit brought against the video game company by more than 2,000 current and former female employees.

“Three years ago, Riot was at the heart of what became a reckoning in our industry,” Riot Games said in a statement to TheWrap Tuesday. “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. We’re incredibly grateful to every Rioter who has worked to create a culture where inclusivity is the norm, where we’re deeply committed to fairness and equality, and where embracing diversity fuels creativity and innovation. While we’re 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 and demonstrates our desire to lead by example in bringing more accountability and equality to the games industry.”

Along with the settlement, which was made with the plaintiffs and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), Riot Games has also agreed to launch a diversity and inclusion program, undergo an audit of workplace investigations and be evaluated for three years by a third party (to be jointly approved by Riot and the DFEH) in regards to gender parity in salaries and job assignments within the company.

The proposed $100 million settlement is pending approval from the Los Angeles Superior Court, with a hearing expected in the coming months. Should it go through, more than 1,000 full-time Riot Games employees and 1,300 contractors who worked for the company going back to November 2014 would split $80 million. The other $20 million of the agreement would be used to pay lawyers’ fees and other costs.

The gender discrimination lawsuit against Riot Games was originally filed in 2018 and on track for a $10 million settlement. But that ending to the case was derailed when two California employment agencies decided to step in and block the settlement in early 2020 on the belief the current and former female employees of Riot Games — which was being investigated by the state of California based on claims of discrimination, sexual harassment, issues of salary parity and retaliation against women — would be entitled to a settlement of more than $400 million.

Earlier this year, Riot Games launched an internal committee to investigate the behavior of its chief executive, Nicolo Laurent, following a lawsuit filed by his former executive assistant Sharon O’Donnell that included claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The committee, which was founded by the Riot Games board of directors, found no evidence to support the claims against Laurent. The lawsuit is still pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

On Monday, Laurent emailed Riot Games employees just before the settlement was announced, per the New York Times, and said he hopes the agreement “symbolizes a moment where we move forward as a united company.”

“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,” Genie Harrison, whose firm is co-representing the women in the class-action lawsuit, said in a statement. “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 continued fairness and equality in the future.”

Added Joseph M. Lovretovich of JML Law, the other law firm representing the plaintiffs: “I’m honored to represent the resilient women of Riot Games and to help achieve this settlement on their behalf. We hope women everywhere take note and demand the fair pay and treatment to which they are entitled under the law.”