On Friday, we reported that Riot Games’ latest efforts to stave off a walkout at the popular League of Legends company were likely to fail, and yesterday, we were proven right, as a reported 150-200 staff walked out of the publisher’s LA office in protest over the company’s forced arbitration policy.
A bit of backstory here: Last summer, Kotaku published a brutal exposé of Riot Games’ so-called bro culture that illuminated the company’s sexual harassment problem as well as its sexism problem insofar as hiring and promotions. The testimony of 28 current and former Riot employees was included in the piece, and it blew up. In response, Riot promised a “cultural revolution” and brought on advisors to help fix the problem. Employees then sought to sue the company individually and as a class action for what they characterized as sexual discrimination. Less than a month later, Riot seemed add fuel to the fire when it merely temporarily suspended a VP accused of repeated sexual harassment toward both male and female employees.
But then in April, it became clear that Riot was attempting to divert some of the lawsuits to arbitration thanks to a forced arbitration clause in staffers’ contracts. It didn’t go over well. Following the uproar, Riot made the concession that it would eventually give future staffers the right to opt-out of forced arbitration, but only after the “current litigation” was resolved, which could take years. Meanwhile, the company wouldn’t promise that the opt-out would apply to existing staffers, and of course it certainly doesn’t apply to those alleging gender discrimination in the workplace. And so the walkout was on.
Kotaku called it the “first labor-related walkout for a large game studio like Riot,” quoting a current employee who said, “It’s been eight months since the original [Kotaku] article was released and so far I haven’t seen a single outcome of our diversity and inclusion efforts at Riot. I haven’t seen a single metric or number to indicate things have improved and I haven’t seen a single project get finished.” Another pointed out that while she was satisfied with the future arbitration clause, she was walking out because a sexist hiring manager had been allowed thus far to keep his job in spite of specific complaints about him from four separate employees.
Riot did say it would not retaliate against those participating in the walkout, but it remains unclear whether Riot will actually listen to its developers.
Big respect to everyone participating in the #riotwalkout this is the first step in the right direction in a long time for the industry and may start the much needed reform. Thank you for leading the movement. pic.twitter.com/9yTQe8IRWj
— Deviation Studios (@deviat10n) May 7, 2019
— Upcomer (@Upcomer) May 6, 2019