The suit was filed in November 2018, and alleges a misogynistic culture at Riot. Examples include internal lists that would rank attraction of women workers, and unsolicited pictures of male genitalia sent to staff members. The suit also mentions that female employees were allegedly denied promotions, and met "refusals to provide increased compensation or equal pay, demotions, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, losses of benefits, suspensions, terminations, and other adverse employment actions.”
The collective $10 million is to be divided among female workers depending on “their tenure, length and status” as an employee. The two plaintiffs in the case, Gabriela Downie and Jessica Negron, will each be awarded $10,000 each, alongside any other payouts they receive as members of the class in the settlement. According to court documents provided to The Washington Post, over 1,000 women have worked at Riot since 2014. Currently, Riot Games has around 2,500 employees, and reached $1.4 billion in revenue last year, according to market analyst SuperData.
“I don’t think it makes a difference in how much a company makes," said Ryan Saba of Rosen Saba, an attorney representing the plaintiffs when asked about Riot’s revenue and the settlement amount. "The fact is they’re distributing $10 million to some employees who were treated wrongfully. Simply because a company has a lot of money or a little money doesn’t change the value of how much is owed to the potential class.”
“This is a substantial settlement,” he continued. “It’s definitely one of the largest settlements of the state of California for gender inequality. This is a figure that I would definitely say is a strong settlement for the women at Riot Games.”
Both Saba’s clients and Riot Games have agreed to the settlement, but the court must still approve it.
Labor law attorney Michael G. Kane from Washington D.C.-based law firm Cashdan & Kane, who has expertise in the area of employment discrimination, believes that the timeline and outcome for the Riot Games lawsuit is extraordinary.
“The suit is only a year old,” Kane said. “That kind of settlement in such as short time is remarkable.”
By comparison, Kane pointed to a 2019 settlement in which McDonald’s faced charges of wage theft in a class action suit first brought six years earlier. That settlement was for $26 million, paid out to “tens of thousands” of employees, per Kane.
In wake of the controversies, Riot enacted several internal initiatives to favor diversity in an attempt to add more women to leadership roles, overhaul recruitment practices and add new policies to its company culture.
“Over the past year, we’ve made substantial progress toward evolving our culture and will continue this work as we strive to be the most inclusive company in gaming," Riot Games wrote in a statement to The Washington Post. "Our transformation over the 15 months has been massive and we’re just getting started.”
It has not come without some bumps, however. In order to resolve two individual wrongful termination suits, Riot invoked its ability to send the matters to arbitration and keep the suits out of court, a legal, but controversial tactic. As a result, in May over 150 employees walked out in protest.
Riot is “pleased to be closer to fully resolving this case," and calls the settlement an important first step in demonstrating its values as an “inclusive environment for the industry’s best talent.”
“As we said back in August when we announced the settlement, we’re honoring our commitment to finding the best and most expeditious way for all Rioters, and Riot, to move forward and heal," Riot said in the statement.