Two women—one who used to work at Riot Games, and one who currently does—have now sued the game studio, alleging violations of California equal pay laws, sexual harassment, and discrimination.
Just three months ago, in August 2018, Kotaku published an extensive story outlining a “culture of sexism” inside the company behind League of Legends. Three weeks later, Riot Games issued an apology in which it seemed to suggest that the company was attempting to right its wrongs: “We will weave this change into our cultural DNA and leave no room for sexism or misogyny. Inclusivity, diversity, respect, and equality are all non-negotiable.”
But, as Kotaku noted in September 2018: “Riot Games Says It Wants To Clean Up Its Mess, But The People Who Made It Are Still There.”
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, there is a “custom and practice” inside the gaming studio that consistently pays women less, assigns women to lesser positions, and also enforces “creating, encouraging, and maintaining a work environment that exposes its female employees to discrimination, and retaliation.”
Specifically, the allegations include women being talked down to (“she’s shrill”), being objectified on an internal company email list (the “Riot Games Hottest Women Employees”), and are “required to participate and tolerate crude male humor which include jokes about sex, defecation, masturbation, rape, and torture,” among other claims.
The proposed class-action lawsuit was brought by Melanie McCracken, who has been with the company for over five years, and by Jessica Negron, who worked there from April 2015 until April 2017. That’s when Negron says that she was effectively pushed out and had to move back home to Connecticut.
There were also apparent internal email chains about “what it would be like to ‘penetrate’ female employees,” “phantom humping,” and unwanted pictures of male genitals, according to a statement issued by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Ryan Saba.
“These women were denied equal pay and opportunities and were discouraged from speaking out by threats of termination. This lawsuit allows them the opportunity to have their voices heard,” Saba said in the statement. “We hope more women have the courage to step forward and speak out against Riot Games. The days of sexually charged, men-first, fraternity-type work environments are over.”
The plaintiffs outline a sordid tale of “bro culture” that has been met with increased scrutiny in Silicon Valley and the broader tech world in recent years.
Some individuals across the tech world who have been called out for alleged sexual misconduct include pundit Robert Scoble, investors Shervin Pishevar and Steve Jurvetson, legendary hacker John Draper, infosec star Morgan Marquis-Boire, and Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum, among others.
Just last week, thousands of Google employees worldwide protested what they felt was the company’s inadequate response to credible allegations of sexual misconduct and an oversized financial payout to Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android operating system.
The Rubin revelation came just a week after it was revealed that a top Uber executive was also shown the door after similar allegations were made against him.
Riot Games did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment, but Joe Hixson, a company spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times, “we can say that we take every allegation of this nature seriously and investigate them thoroughly.”
The wave of allegations targeted a company that hasn’t put out a new video game in a long, long time. Its mega-popular esports title League of Legends formally launched in 2009, and the company has yet to announce a follow-up title.
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