The lawsuit is seeking class action status. It was filed in a California court on Tuesday, lawyer Ryan Saba told Variety. The plaintiffs, Melanie McCracken and Jessica Negron, allege that many women working at Riot have been denied equal pay and found their careers stifled because they’re women. They also say their working conditions were negatively impacted by ongoing sexual harassment, misconduct, and bias.
The lawsuit comes months after a detailed Kotaku investigation into Riot Games’ alleged “bro” culture. About 28 current and former employees spoke to the outlet for the story. Negron was one of those people. She worked at Riot for two years and said she took on additional responsibilities after her boss left, but was never compensated and was never granted an interview for the job. Three different men were given the chance to fill the position instead.
McCracken started at Riot in 2013. She claimed her supervisor, Jin Oh, created a harassing and hostile work environment for the employees who reported to him. Oh discriminated against women based on their gender, the lawsuit said. Specifically, he didn’t hire women to fill vacancies in senior employment positions. He allegedly hired women only for assistant positions, saying it would “feel weird having a male” in that role. McCracken later took a new position in the North America region. When Oh was named the new temporary head of that region, the outgoing supervisor reportedly told McCracken she “had a target on her back.” She was allegedly given a five-month countdown to find a new position or “be fired.”
Riot Games operates 24 offices worldwide and employs approximately 2,500 people, 80% of whom are male, according to the lawsuit. It reportedly looks for “core gamers” during its hiring process. While the term is ostensibly meant to promote the hiring and advancement of people who are hard core video game fans, the lawsuit states it’s an unwritten policy and practice of preferring men to women.
Additionally, one of Negron’s former supervisors once allegedly said “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.”
Following Kotaku’s investigative report, Riot apologized to its employees, fans, and partners and promised change. “We will weave this change into our cultural DNA and leave no room for sexism or misogyny,” it said. “Inclusivity, diversity, respect, and equality are all non-negotiable. While there is much to improve, there is a tremendous amount of good at Riot that will drive this change. This is our top priority until we get it right.” It said it would expand its Diversity & Inclusion Initiative and it hired strategy and leadership expert Frances Frei to help with its diversity roadmap.
The lawsuit is asking for punitive damages and all wages due to the plaintiffs under the California Labor Code, in an amount to be determined at trial.
Variety reached out to Riot Games for comment and it responded with the following statement:
“While we do not discuss the details of ongoing litigation, we can say that we take every allegation of this nature seriously and investigate them thoroughly. We remain committed to a deep and comprehensive evolution of our culture to ensure Riot is a place where all Rioters thrive. We’ve shared our progress here: https://www.riotgames.com/en/how-were-evolving.”
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