Riot Games balks at DFEH $400 million gender discrimination suit

Olivia R. January 22, 2020

Riot Games has called the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's $400 million lawsuit estimate "a click-bait number with no grounding in reality." 

The League of Legends developers agreed to pay $10 million to female employees past and present to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit in December 2019. While the community at large had applauded Riot for giving female employees from the past five years a portion of the settlement based to make up for their lower salaries, it seems that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is not impressed with the amount. 

The DFEH believes that the female employees who sued Riot Games for sexual harassment and discrimination may be entitled to more than $400 million. This includes back pay based on the wage discrepancies between men and women at Riot, but it may not be that accurate, according to Riot spokesperson Joe Hixson. 

In an email to WIN.gg, Hixson called the numbers "bogus," stating that the six-figure amount was "not grounded in fact or any reasonable analysis." He explained that the DFEH got their number based solely on gender without factoring in job titles, duties, skills, experience, and education. 

“We worked hard to negotiate with the lawyer representing the class to reach an agreement that we collectively believe is fair for the class members,” Hixson said. “Now DFEH is trying to disrupt that agreement in a legal filing that is filled with inaccuracies and false allegations. We shared the settlement agreement with the DFEH weeks ago, and they raised no objections or comments to us prior to filing this legal action."

Hixson also noted that Riot was "particularly dismayed" that the DFEH seemed to ignore the video game giant's efforts to be more inclusive and respectful since the company's potentially discriminatory work culture came to light 18 months ago. 

Riot Games drama over gender discrimination lawsuit continues

Riot Games first came under fire when former female employees spoke up in an expose by Kotaku writer Cecilia D'Anastasio. The disturbing allegations included not only refusing to give women promotions or positions of power, but also blatant sexual harassment. Higher-ups would text sexually suggestive messages to female employees, call them "hos," and even degrade female cosplayers at Riot-sponsored events. 

After Riot was exposed for blatant discrimination and sexism, the company sent management through training. But many in the gaming community were dismayed that the offenders didn't lose their job entirely. Riot then hired their first chief diversity officer in March, hoping to make employees feel safer and let them know their voices were being heard. 

But employees decided to stage a walkout when Riot cited forced arbitration in response to former employee's gender discrimination lawsuits. Many felt the company's actions weren't backing up their promises to employees. Some Rioters even quit that day. 

Riot later took back their stance on the lawsuit, instead agreeing to a $10 million settlement. 

"Some Rioters have had experiences that did not live up to our values or culture. In addition, we’ve encountered considerable fatigue among Rioters, who have been drained by constant engagement with the internal and external dialogues emerging from these lawsuits and recurring media cycles," Riot Games said in a press release. 

It seemed that the drama at Riot was finally over. Until now. 

Hixson said that Riot "look forward to making our case to the Court" after the DFEH made their public statement about the $400 million settlement analysis.