If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Riot Games denies collusion in gender discrimination lawsuit

Two government agencies attempt to discredit Riot Games and plaintiffs' legal counsel in bid for $400 million compensation for current and former employees

Riot Games has denied allegations that it colluded with the plaintiffs' counsel in a class action lawsuit from current and former staff.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) suggested that Riot Games is attempting to minimise the amount it would be required to pay in a settlement.

Earlier this month, two California state agencies filed opposition to a preliminary settlement agreed upon between Riot Games and the plaintiffs of an ongoing gender discrimination case.

The DFEH highlighted areas of the case which indicated possible collusion, suggesting the presence of side deals and a "reverse auction."

The DFEH defined a reverse auction as: "A defendant's collusive selection of the weakest attorney among a number of plaintiff attorneys who have filed lawsuits dealing with the same subject matter."

Riot Games also said that Rosen Saba was the only legal firm to file for this case, and so there was no possibility of a reverse auction

These claims were joined by additional allegations of procedural irregularities, a lack of relevant experience on behalf of the plaintiffs' legal representation, Rosen Saba.

The DFEH's argument centres around a belief that the plaintiffs' could be entitled to around $400 million in compensation, as opposed to the $10 million currently under consideration.

Additionally, the DFEH claims to use the same methodology as Rosen Saba in reaching this figure, but also included stock or equity compensation in its estimate.

Stocks are "a significant part of employee compensation, especially for men," a DFEH spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz.

"DFEH relied on these records to submit a more accurate pay gap estimate to the court," they added. "Riot did not. Riot itself concedes in its court filings that stock compensation was not accounted for in any of the pay gap analyses used in the proposed settlement agreement."

Based on court documents, the DFEH is attempting to build a case that Riot Games colluded with Rosen Saba to minimise the amount it would have to pay out -- an assertion which the plaintiffs' legal counsel strongly objects.

Furthermore, the DFEH claims that Riot Games wants to impede the government agency's ongoing investigation into gender discrimination which was launched in October 2018, a month before the lawsuit was filed.

However, Riot Games legal counsel refutes each claim, and argues instead that the DFEH figure "is outrageous, reckless, and without any basis in fact or law."

"The proposed settlement is fair, reasonable, and stands to provide significant relief to the putative class," the document continues. "The DFEH's Objection -- which is wrought with misinformation and misdirection -- seeks only to stand in the way of such relief."

Riot Games also said that Rosen Saba was the only legal firm to file for this case, and so there was no possibility of a reverse auction, as suggested by the DFEH.

"The lawsuit is a compilation of claims jumbled together and plaintiffs make no effort to explain the merits of various claims"

DLSE court documents

Another sticking point for the DFEH is that the preliminary settlement includes no enforcable relief aimed at remedying discrimination within Riot Games.

Despite the myriad claims of gender discrimination at the League of Legends developer, Riot Games still wholeheartedly denies it is a systemic issue. As a result, it argues that injunctive relief is unnecessary, and highlights measures enacted over the last year to combat gender discrimination in the workplace.

Riot Games has been transparent about its recent efforts in this department, and in August last year Kotaku reported that the real progress had been made in overcoming the company's toxic "bro culture."

"The DFEH's accusation that Riot and plaintiffs colluded to quickly settle this matter in mediation is also a blatant mischaracterization," read court documents submitted by Riot Games in response to the DFEH.

Riot also questioned the DFEH's "questionable tactics" and use of "media efforts to publicise its position and tarnish Riot's reputation."

In support of this stance, a Riot Games spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz that the $400 million figure was "clickbait."

Riot's response has done little to quell the DFEH however, which firmly maintains its position.

"DFEH filed the objection to provide information to the court and unrepresented employees and former employees because the parties did not and -- continue to not -- adequately explain why their proposed settlement was reasonable," a representative told GamesIndustry.biz.

"DFEH was merely pointing out incorrect statements and correcting plaintiffs' own calculations which were used to justify the settlement. DFEH objected to the settlement to advance and protect the interests of the public."

The DFEH is not the only government agency to intervene with this case; the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) also made its opposition known, arguing the evidence provided is inadequate to arrive at a fair and reasonable decision.

"The lawsuit is a compilation of claims jumbled together and plaintiffs make no effort to explain the merits of various claims," read documents submitted by the agency.

Again, Riot refutes this, arguing that the DLSE's opposition fails to illustrate how the settlement is unfair or unreasonable. Furthermore, Riot said the court should evaluate fairness "after feedback on whether class members find the settlement to be fair."

Related topics
Ivy Taylor avatar

Ivy Taylor


Ivy joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2017 having previously worked as a regional journalist, and a political campaigns manager before that. They are also one of the UK's foremost Sonic the Hedgehog apologists.