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Riot Won’t Drop Arbitration Clause Immediately, Despite Walkout (Updated)

Updated: Riot Games, makers of “League of Legends,” said Thursday it won’t be changing its use of mandatory arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination until after its ongoing litigation wraps up, rejecting the demands made by workers who walked out from three locations over the issue last week.

Calling the walkout an “important moment in our company’s transformation, and it reaffirmed our commitment to keep fighting to make this the company we believe it can be,” Riot still declined to meet those demands.

“We’ve taken the time to clearly understand the range of perspectives and opinions related to our arbitration agreement, including those shared over the last three weeks,” the company wrote on its website. “Ultimately, given the complexities of ongoing litigation, we will not change our employee agreements while in active litigation. We know not everyone agrees with this decision, but we also know everyone does want Riot to continue to improve. We remain committed to having a firm answer around extending an opt-out to all Rioters when active litigation concludes. Everything we’ve heard will impact our discussions when we revisit arbitration and we hope to have an answer that will be satisfying to everyone. At a minimum, we will give new Rioters the option to opt out of arbitration on individual sexual harassment claims.”

The organizers of the walkout — Indu Reddy, Ronnie Blackburn, and Jocelyn Monahan — provided the following statement to Variety and said that more information is coming about the next action the group is planning on Monday.

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“Conditions of current Rioters’ employment around forced arbitration, including those in active litigation, are unlikely to change anytime soon,” the group said. “We’re disappointed leadership doesn’t seem to be considering any major changes to their active policy. That said, we’re blown away by the passion, solidarity, and vulnerability that workers who support the walkout are showing. Despite their fear, many bravely shared stories of pain they’ve suffered while at Riot. We all felt how validating it is to connect with others who share similar experiences.

“Since the walkout, we’ve had support pouring in both internally and externally. Many Rioters have offered to get involved. We have received messages of support from workers at other companies, international organizations, and our players. The sense of teamwork and passion—as always at Riot—is staggering.

“As we continue to pressure Riot to end forced arbitration, we are leveraging that teamwork and solidarity by involving more coworkers in the effort. We are weighing the options for our next steps, and will share more information next week. As always, our main goal is to make sure that workers at Riot feel heard and represented, and above all, safe.”

Earlier this month, Riot announced that it would soon start giving new employees the option to opt-out of such arbitration, but last week’s protest organizers said that wasn’t enough.

“We are walking out against forced arbitration of past, current, and future employees, including contractors and those involved in current litigation,” an organizer who asked that her name not be used told Variety at the time. She added that they don’t want it to be an opt-out option, but rather just not be part of the contracts.

Last week’s walkout was held first at the San Francisco and Los Angeles offices and a day later at the office in Dublin Ireland. Organizers believe about 150 to 200 of the staff walked out.

The organizer who spoke with Variety said there’s no firm plan about what will happen next if Riot doesn’t change its arbitration policies to meet what they’re asking for but sees Monday’s walkout as a pivotal moment both for the studio and the game industry at large.Riot in its response late Thursday night, also noted that it continues its other diversity and inclusion work.”Last week’s walkout and related discussions proves that we’re stronger when we leverage the diverse viewpoints of all of Riot; Rioters are passionate and to meet our goals as one team, we need to channel that passion into productive dialogue that accelerate progress and drive change—or at a minimum, mutual understanding,” according to the company.

The company said it is creating a new forum called the D&I Rioters Council, which is designed to “leverage a group of engaged, thoughtful Rioters from teams across the company to participate in formal discussions on D&I. This will become a proactive approach to share perspectives, create change, and identify barriers and opportunities to move us forward in D&I and culture.”

Riot has also invited a diverse group of Rioters to participate in reviewing aspects of the company’s code of conduct. “Rather than bringing the new code of conduct to Rioters as a finished product, we want representatives of Riot involved in the process, much in the way we drafted our values last year (though we’ll admit that to hit our 30 day goal on this project we’re going to be limited in who we include in this process).”

The company said it is on track to meet the goals that it shared during the first week of May, which includes revamping our recruitment process, accelerating our D&I-focused training programs across all levels of Riot, and creating a D&I scorecard that will keep us accountable for the change we have pledged to Rioters, players, partners, and fans.

Do you have stories you’d like to share about working at Riot or other studios under crunch or other adverse work conditions? Email Variety Gaming at GamingTips@Variety.com

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