Like in many industries, sexism is one of the most-discussed issues in gaming today. An article last year posted on Kotaku told the story of "Lacy," a female employee at Riot Games. Lacy described her encounters with sexism in the office. Issues ranged from unnecessary remarks on her appearance to upper management refusing to consider ideas proposed by female employees.
These allegations of sexism proved very serious. Kotaku reached out to over two dozen other employees who shared similar accounts. Others, including at least one female employee, disputed the claims. Regardless, the outcry spurred Riot Games into action. After Riot Games became aware of Kotaku's reporting, the company added a "Diversity & Inclusion" section on its website. The section stated, “We aggressively enforce a zero tolerance policy on discrimination, harassment, and general toxicity. It is incredibly important that our leaders embody this commitment, and reinforce this expectation across their teams.” This came days after Kotaku posted its article, although the company claims that the update to its website was planned as early as April of last year. Kotaku claims it began its inquiries in December of 2017.
As Kotaku continued its reporting, they learned that many former Riot employees had signed non-disparagement agreements after terminating their employment with the company. Late last month, disgruntled employees at Riot Games staged a walkout on the job in protest. Employees demanded renunciation of Riot's mandatory arbitration clause. TechRaptor has already provided considerable coverage on the issue.
The walkouts, however, appear to have had little effect on Riot's policy making decisions. Today, Riot released a statement on its company blog regarding the employee protests. Riot plans to create a Diversity & Inclusion Council to help the company move forward.
"Ultimately, given the complexities of ongoing litigation, we will not change our employee agreements while in active litigation. We know not everyone agrees with this decision, but we also know everyone does want Riot to continue to improve."In an update with Gamesindustry.biz, Riot reached out and refined their statement. Despite pressure, the company plans to keep its mandatory arbitration clause, though it did make some concessions for new employees. It emphasized its previous claim, allowing new employees to opt-out when it came to claims of sexual harassment and assault.
"As soon as current litigation is resolved, we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. At that time, we will also commit to have a firm answer around expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters."Since Kotaku broke the story in May, five women have sued Riot. Complaints ranged from sexual harassment to unfair pay. One case expanded into a class-action lawsuit, backed by both current and former employees. Riot successfully pushed the cases into arbitration last month, causing employees to walk out on the job in frustration.
The forced arbitration means that employees cannot sue Riot Games. The arbitration puts the company at a definite advantage when it comes to negotiating and settling disagreements. Bloomberg writes that studies show employees are much more likely to lose in arbitration than in court cases.
Both male and female employees reported seeing unsolicited images of male genitalia from bosses and coworkers. Female employees have mentioned hearing of senior employees keeping lists of workers to sleep with. According to data gathered by Riot from employees' driver's licenses, four out of five employees are male. “The ‘bro culture’ there is so real. It’s agonizingly real. It’s like working at a giant fraternity.” a female former employee claimed.
In response to Riot's decision, walkout organizers and participants expressed disappointment with the company to USGamer. Walkout organizers Indu Reddy, Ronnier Blackburn, and Jocelyn Monahan released a statement about the coalition's future plans.
"As we continue to pressure Riot to end forced arbitration, we are leveraging that teamwork and solidarity by involving more coworkers in the effort. We are weighing the options for our next steps, and will share more information next week. As always, our main goal is to make sure that workers at Riot feel heard and represented, and above all, safe."As the situation is still developing, TechRaptor will continue to inform and update readers as new information emerges.
What do you think of Riot's response? Do forced-arbitration clauses disproportionately harm workers, or help protect a company's image? We're always interested in hearing from you in the comments below!