The settlement was approved late July, reported Axios, adding that the deal involves much more than the payout to women who worked for the company. Women in the industry have spoken on social media and in the press about instances of physical, verbal and emotional abuse, of difficulties getting promoted or being treated as inferior to male colleagues, but their complaints typically fell on deaf ears – until now.
The Class Action
The class action lawsuit, which was first filed in 2018, accuses the League of Legends publisher of endemic gender-based discrimination. The plaintiffs described numerous instances of male employees grabbing their crotches, air humping and discussing, through email, what it would be like to "penetrate" women working at the company.
According to court documents, “like many of Riot Games’ female employees, Plaintiffs have been denied equal pay and found their careers stifled because they are women. Moreover, Plaintiffs have also seen their working conditions negatively impacted because of the ongoing sexual harassment, misconduct, and bias which predominate the sexually-hostile working environment of Riot Games.” Further, the elite game maker violated California’s Equal Pay Act and law against gender-based discrimination at the workplace.
Back in 2018, the video game website and blog Kotaku investigated Riot Games’ culture of sexism. From 28 current and former employees, including Jessica Negron, one of the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Kotaku found that:
- Riot’s so-called “bro culture” inspires and, in some instances, rewards behavior that disadvantages women.
- The 2,500-employee games company, which is 80% male, regularly turned down female applicants for not fitting the company’s image of “core gamers.”
- Riot’s obsession with “culture fits” reinforced a culture that hired and promoted aggressive male personalities and disadvantaged and harmed female recruits and employees
- Many sources called out their colleagues’ sexist behavior, but their complaints were brushed aside or used to thwart their careers.
Both plaintiffs said they want to stop Riot’s alleged practice of paying men more than women who are fulfilling the same job role, promoting men into more superior roles more frequently than women, and demoting women who had similar qualifications as well-compensated men. Further, the lawsuit is intended to prevent Riot from “creating, encouraging, and maintaining a work environment that exposes its female employees to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of their gender or sex.”
Plaintiff Negrón told Axios that, "My hope is that this serves as a wake-up call for the whole industry…We've set a precedent that the sexist behaviour that runs rampant at gaming companies is unacceptable and, when companies are unwilling to address it themselves in a meaningful way, women have options to get justice."
The complaint reached a preliminary settlement for $10 million, before the California Department for Fair Employment and Housing objected and pushed for a larger settlement (up to $400 million. They argued that the deal contained an "overly broad" release of all the claims in exchange for "minimal benefits," and became involved in the case in the summer of 2020. The $100 million was agreed upon in December 2021.
The Settlement Terms
Women eligible for the settlement will receive notification by the end of August, according to the court's schedule. They will have until the end of October to opt out, with payments to follow.
The California Department of Fair Employment & Housing issued a press release stating:
A hearing on a final approval of the settlement is set for Dec. 1. According to the terms of the settlement, a nonreversionary cash fund of a minimum of $80 million will go to approximately 1,065 female Riot employees and about 1,300 temporary contract workers. The settlement covers a class period from Nov. 6, 2014, through Dec. 21, 2021.
As part of the injunctive relief provisions in the consent decree, Riot Games will analyze pay equity and make any appropriate pay adjustments to benefit female workers and create job opportunities to benefit temporary agency contract worker applicants, and undergo an independent expert analysis and independent monitor audit to see whether supplemental workplace improvements are recommended.
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There will be a $6 million cash reserve set aside each year for three years to address the injunctive relief provisions, except for the third-party independent expert and monitor, according to the settlement terms.
The case is Melanie McCracken et al. v. Riot Games Inc., case number 18STCV03957, in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles.