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Riot Games faces class-action suit for discrimination, harassment

One current, one former employee allege company denied equal pay, stifled careers based on their gender

(Original story 06/11/18) Yesterday, current Riot Games employee Melanie McCracken and former employee Jessica Negron filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging that they and others were "denied equal pay and found their careers stifled because they are women."

Kotaku reports that McCracken and Negron are also accusing Riot of "ongoing sexual harassment, misconduct, and bias" in a hostile working environment.

The details of the suit canvas a number of issues referred to in a Kotaku exposé on the sexist culture and discriminatory working conditions at the company published three months ago. These include the nature of being a "Rioter" having a negative impact on women employees and potential hires, a "bro culture" at the studio cultivated in aspects such as hiring, conversations at the studio, meetings, and job assignments, sexually explicit conversations at the studio of which female staff members were the subject, and a number of other concerns.

However, it also accuses Riot of sweeping these allegations under the rug following the report and not taking the complaints seriously. In addition, the lawsuit alleges other, previously unreported incidents, such as the word "dick" being used over 500 times in a month by male employees at the company and comments made by a supervisor stating that "diversity should not be a focal point of the design of Riot Games' products because gaming culture is the last remaining safe-haven for white teen boys."

The lawsuit includes specific accounts of both McCracken and Negron's experiences at the company. Negron allegedly took over job duties from a former supervisor without being compensated or promoted while Riot hired a series of men for the position. When she complained at the time, it was ignored, and she eventually was asked to continue performing the role again without the increase in salary offered to the role's precious occupants. Negron left the company sometime after, still making less than half what the supervisory position supposedly made.

McCracken, meanwhile, was repeatedly denied promotions while her supervisor used language that indicated he only saw women as working in "assistant" roles. When she complained to HR, her complaint was not kept confidential and led to a confrontation with that supervisor. She eventually transferred to a different region, but her supervisor followed her a year later and reportedly gave her a deadline to move elsewhere or be fired. McCracken then accepted a different position working with Riot top executives, during which time she was sent an inappropriate video of her coworkers. When word of the video got out, McCracken was punished with project termination and being barred from meetings.

The lawsuit seeks an end to the discriminatory and sexist culture at Riot, as well as financial compensation for damages and lost wages due to the plaintiffs.

Update (07/11/18):Riot Games today reached out to to say that it cannot discuss ongoing legal matters.

However, the League of Legends developer reiterated a commitment to transform its culture, and has launched a new section of its website titled 'How We're Evolving' which has taken prominence on the home navigation bar.

"It won't be fast or easy, and there might be setbacks along the way," said Riot. "Nevertheless, step by step, Riot will evolve...

"This page exists for you to monitor our progress, hold us accountable, and to provide a guide so you can see the steps we're taking. We're also going to share lessons we learn along the way that work-as well as the ones that don't-with the hope that other companies and industries can learn from our efforts."

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Rebekah Valentine avatar

Rebekah Valentine

Senior Staff Writer

Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.