‘League of Legends’ publisher settles $100 million discrimination case

LOS ANGELES >> 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 ignored for promotions, unwanted sexual advances and men questioning women about the legitimacy of their video game fandom. Other former employees subsequently made similar claims.

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

“I am so happy that we have taken this first step towards 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 in general. Women in gaming don’t have to suffer inequity and harassment in silence – change is possible.

“League of Legends” is the most popular esport in the world, and Riot Games manages its 12 professional international leagues. The publisher said in November that the player base for games in the “League of Legends” universe had exceeded 180 million monthly players.

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

A new attorney has been hired, and just over two years later, Monday’s settlement was announced by Riot and the plaintiffs’ new attorneys.

Riot 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 programs, equity and inclusion each of the next three years, among other changes.

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

“While we are proud of how far we have come since 2018, we must also take responsibility for the past,” he said. “We hope this settlement will properly recognize those who have had negative experiences at Riot and demonstrate our desire to lead by example in bringing more accountability and equality to the gaming industry.”