Riot Games has decided to settle a gender discrimination class action lawsuit brought forward by current and former employees, according to a statement from the group Riot Walkout. The widespread reported culture of harassment at Riot Games has been in the public eye for months now, prompting a state of California investigation of the League of Legends creator back in June of this year.
From controversial issues like forcing their employees to go through forced in-house arbitration of sexual harassment claims to dealing with massive employee walkouts, Riot Games has had a series of stressful interactions with both the media and its own staff over the past 12 months. The investigation by the state of California itself resulted in even more bad press, as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing ended up suing Riot for not properly cooperating with the agency's demands.
The gender discrimination lawsuit alleged that "Plaintiffs have been denied equal pay and found their careers stifled because they are women," which violates California's Equal Pay Act. IGN reports that Riot Games confirmed the settlement but denied that sexual harassment and gender discrimination were systemic issues at the company. In an official Riot blog post that accompanied a joint statement with the lawsuit's plaintiffs, Riot admitted that some employees did indeed have experiences that did not live up to their company values, but went on to lament that "We've encountered considerable fatigue among Rioters, who have been drained by the constant engagement with the internal and external dialogues emerging from these lawsuits."
In the message from Riot Walkout, a representative of the group said "Settling this class action is a victory for women in games," and went on to state that they believe Riot Games' agreed upon policy changes will help to continue the progress they've made since the situation was first brought to light last year. The exact details of the settlement have not been disclosed, and both parties are currently waiting for the court to approve the settlement proposal. The CEO of Riot Games, Nicolo Laurent, hopes that this new agreed-up settlement will be a way for employees at Riot to move forward and heal, saying that they have made substantial changes to the company's environment over the past year and will "Continue to pursue this work as we strive to be the most inclusive company in gaming." The attorney representing the plaintiffs of the class action lawsuit, Ryan Saba, spoke optimistically of the future, stating that this settlement is "A clear indication that Riot is dedicated to making progress in evolving its culture and employment practices."
Although Riot Games has always stated that they have a zero tolerance policy on general toxicity in the workplace, they seem to finally be making some real strides to ensure that those rules are followed. Hopefully this class action settlement will set a better precedent for the way discrimination and harassment accusations are handled in the future, not just at Riot Games but in all video game development companies. Perhaps even more importantly, it can give those who have not yet spoken up about their own harassment the courage to do so.