The company behind one of the biggest video games in the world was just slammed with a lawsuit alleging its ‘bro-culture’ created a sexist workplace

Riot Games has vowed to change its culture after allegations of sexual discrimination. Riot Games
  • The “League of Legends” developer Riot Games is facing a class-action lawsuit claiming the company harbored a sexist work environment with women suffering from unequal pay and regular harassment.
  • Reports detailing the company’s “bro culture” surfaced in August, leading Riot to issue an apology to current and past employees.
  • The two women who filed the lawsuit detailed multiple instances of inappropriate behaviour, including a list of “Hottest Women Employees” and unsolicited photos of male genitalia.

Months after reports accused the “League of Legends” developer Riot Games of fostering a sexist work environment, two employees, one former and one current, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company alleging discrimination and harassment.

In the complaint filed with the California Superior Court in Los Angeles, the plaintiffs claim that Riot denied them equal pay and blocked their career advancements on the basis of gender.

Both plaintiffs are women and claim that Riot promoted a male-dominated culture that led to sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.

A copy of the complaint obtained by Gizmodo Media Group mentions an investigative report from the GMG-owned video game website Kotaku detailing the experiences of more than two dozen Riot employees, many of whom share the same criticism. After the report was published in August, Riot acknowledged that the company’s emphasis on what it called “gamer” culture resulted in gendered discrimination.

Read more:
Riot Games apologizes after being accused of sexist culture, vows to change

Representatives for the plaintiffs, Jessica Negron and Melanie McCracken, claim the “core gamer” identity emphasised by Riot is explicitly male and was used to disqualify women from recruitment and promotions. Furthermore, they allege that women have been assigned to lower-paying jobs while less qualified men receive more frequent promotions. The lawsuit also claims women in the workplace are subjected to additional criticism, harassment, and retaliation based on gender.

“Women are required to participate and tolerate crude male humour which include jokes about sex, defecation, masturbation, rape, and torture,” the lawsuit says. “Women who do not join in these adolescent humour jokes are classified as ‘snobby’ and unwilling to fit in with the company.”

The lawsuit offers several specific examples of how what it calls Riot’s “bro culture” negatively affected female employees. According to the claim, one of the plaintiffs counted male Riot Games using the work dick more than 500 times during a single month. Other employees were shown unsolicited photos of male genitalia, and one woman found an email chain in which coworkers discussed what it would be like to “penetrate her,” the lawsuit says. The claim says there is an ongoing email chain of “Riot Games Hottest Women Employees” that rates female employees.

Basic work dynamics were said to have suffered as well, with the plaintiffs saying women were frequently talked over during meetings and had their ideas dismissed. Riot Games’ CEO and cofounder, Brandon Beck, is accused of using the phrase “no doesn’t necessarily mean no” as a slogan for the company during an internal meeting.

One plaintiff said her supervisor told her, “Diversity should not be a focal point of the design of Riot Games’ products because gaming culture is the last remaining safe-haven for white teen boys.”

Riot Games Brandon Beck (CEO) Marc Merrill (President).
Riot Games’ CEO and cofounder, Brandon Beck, left, with the company’s president, Marc Merrill, is accused of using the phrase ‘no doesn’t necessarily mean no’ as a slogan for the company during an internal meeting. Riot Games

When asked to comment on the lawsuit, a representative for Riot Games offered the following statement:

“While we do not discuss the details of ongoing litigation, we can say that we take every allegation of this nature seriously and investigate them thoroughly. We remain committed to a deep and comprehensive evolution of our culture to ensure Riot is a place where all Rioters thrive. We’ve shared our progress here:”

Since the initial reports of sexism surfaced in August, Riot has been detailing its efforts to combat sexism and discrimination within the company. This includes bringing in third-party consultants to help redefine the company culture and sharing a timeline of actionable steps to make that change happen.

Still, regardless of what changes are being made, Riot will need to answer the allegations of past discrimination in court. Both plaintiffs are seeking damages over multiple allegations of discrimination and harassment as well as what they say are violations of California’s Equal Pay Act. The court will need to certify the lawsuit for it to become class action.