Olivia R. May 7, 2019
Over 150 Riot employees walked out in protest of the company's stance on forced arbitration yesterday. This comes just days after employees first considered a walkout in response to the League of Legends publisher's response to ex-employee's gender discrimination lawsuits.
Jocelyn Monahan, a social listening strategist at Riot, stated near the end of the walkout that further action would be taken if Riot management didn't make any decision on forced arbitration by May 16. While no specific plans were revealed, other Rioters confirmed that there are indeed plans based on their company's decision.
Holding picket signs, Riot employees stood outside Riot's Los Angeles-based campus, listening to speeches in the parking lot.
"I want us to feel solidarity and connection with each other. I want us to feel connected. I want us to feel like our voices are heard and heard in a way that matters,” Monahan said.
Other Rioters took turns with the megaphone, discussing their hopes for the company's future as well as their fear of being labeled "anti-Riot."
In response to the walkout, Riot stated that it "actively supports its employees" who participated in the demonstration. They promised no retaliation of any kind towards the walkout's participants, and upper management was instructed to clear up meeting schedules to further support employees who chose to take part in the walkout.
But the game developer also noted that it will not be changing its policy on lawsuits currently in litigation.
The final straw for Riot employees
Riot has been making headlines for almost a year, particularly since Kotaku first revealed the company's sexist culture and the frequent harassment of female employees. The expose also discussed how female candidates were often overlooked for leadership positions and how current female employees were not given promotions.
When five current and former employees sued the company for gender discrimination, including violations to California's Equal Pay Act, Riot fought back by filing a motion to force two of the current employees into arbitration. While Riot announced that it would allow incoming employees to opt out of forced arbitration for harassment suits, as well as current employees once this litigation is resolved, that was not enough for many Rioters.
Many employees took to Slack to discuss a walkout in late April, stating that they felt the company wasn't keeping its promises, moving forward, or learning from their past wrong-doings. The chief diversity officer's response to the walkout was small group discussion sessions, which Rioters felt was "yet another example of closed-door discussions" instead of transparency.
Signs at the protest read, "It shouldn't take all this to do the right thing" and "Silence one of us, you silence us all."
Rioters at a breaking point
It's been hard for many Rioters to fully trust Riot, especially after the company kept COO Scott Gelb employed despite allegations that he humped fellow employees.
"I'm quitting because I don't want to see people who were protected by people in high places in Riot," stated one protester, who said she was leaving in two weeks.
Other employees noted that the company's sexist culture didn't seem to be changing.
Said one walkout participant: "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.”
A male employee who took part in the protest told Kotaku that he "believes Riot is doing everything they can in the moment to end future arbitration." But he noted that he sees value in "presenting a nonviolent, unified voice."
Game Workers Unite' Los Angeles chapter organizer, Robin, felt hopeful that the walkout would inspire game developers across the industry.
“The fact that this action went so well—there were people on the mic, everyone was so excited, there were so many people sharing their stories—I think that’s gonna inspire a lot of other people at companies to realize they have a lot of power over the conditions at their workplaces," Robin said.
May 16 marks the next Riot Unplugged meeting. Only time will tell if the protesters will act on its promise of further actions on this date, now that Riot has made it clear it won't budge in its stance on current lawsuits.