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Riot Games reportedly delaying procedure in discrimination and harassment investigation

Update: "Riot's severance agreements have never in any way prohibited speaking to government agencies," a Riot spokesperson said

Original story: Riot Games is reportedly delaying the investigation it's facing for gender discrimination and sexual harassment, according to the California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

As reported by Kotaku, the DFEH shared a statement yesterday, saying that Riot has delayed the process for the past two months by not issuing a notice giving its employees the right to speak to government's officials and the DFEH about the issues they have faced.

"In 2019, more than a year after the government opened a company-wide investigation of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and sexual assault at Riot Games, the company announced it had reached secret settlement agreements with approximately 100 women who waived their claims and rights, without notice of the government's actions," the statement read.

"For the next 18 months, the DFEH sought the secret settlement agreements. The Court ordered Riot to produce them to the government in January 2021; however, Riot delayed production until April 2021. Alarmed by language in Riot's settlement and separation agreements that suggested employees could not voluntarily and candidly speak with the government about sexual harassment and other violations, and obtain relief in the government's actions, DFEH promptly moved for relief from the Court. The Court ordered Riot to issue the corrective notice; however, Riot has delayed the process for two months."

In its statement, the DFEH called for the Los Angeles Superior Court to ask Riot to comply and produce the notice, which was initially required on June 4, 2021.

"The notice will advise workers of their right to speak freely with the government about unlawful workplace practices and participate in DFEH's pending action, without fear of retaliation, regardless of non-disparagement and nondisclosure terms in their settlement agreements," the DFEH added.

A class action lawsuit against Riot Games was initially filed in November 2018 following a lengthy exposé from Kotaku about Riot's alleged toxic culture.

A preliminary settlement between the parties could have seen the former Riot employees receive $10 million. But the DFEH then said that they could actually be entitled to over $400 million.

Riot tried to move the case to private arbitration hearings back in April 2019, arguing that the women involved in the lawsuit waived their right to sue when they were hired.

Shortly after, Riot employees threatened to walk out, which led the studio to drop the mandatory arbitration.

Riot did reach a preliminary settlement agreement in August 2019, before pushing for forced arbitration once again earlier this year.

Update: Riot Games reached out to GamesIndustry.biz to clarify that the issue at hand is related to former employees, and not current staff.

"The clarification notice going out is specific to former employees who signed severance or settlement agreements," a spokesperson said.

The company will be filing its official response through the Courts today, the spokesperson added, but did share a broader response via the following statement:

"Notices are being sent to former employees to confirm that Riot's severance agreements have never in any way prohibited speaking to government agencies. Riot has never and will never retaliate against anyone for talking to any government agency. In fact, our standard severance agreement has included the following language for many years (predating Kotaku's original reporting and any involvement from the DFEH):

"The court went out of its way to say sending these notices in no way indicates any judgement against Riot on the DFEH allegations, and the judge recognized that Riot has always maintained that our agreements allow people to make government complaints."

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