- The “League of Legends” developer Riot Games has suspended its chief operating officer, Scott Gelb, for two months without pay following reports of sexual misconduct in the workplace and a pending lawsuit against the company.
- Gelb has been accused of repeatedly touching his employees’ genitals in the workplace and farting in their faces as a joke.
- In November, two women filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging that the “bro culture” that dominated Riot’s work environment negatively affected their careers.
The “League of Legends” developer Riot Games has acknowledged Chief Operating Officer Scott Gelb’s role in upholding a culture of toxic masculinity that has made the company the target of a gender-discrimination lawsuit.
Reports of Riot’s “bro culture” first surfaced in late August, detailing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and gender discrimination in the workplace. Gelb specifically has been accused of repeatedly farting on employees, humping them, and hitting their testicles as a part of what was described as a running workplace gag.
Following the allegations that it fostered a work environment unwelcoming to women, Riot apologised and pledged to conduct an internal review and make necessary changes to its culture.
Now, more than three months into its 16-month “cultural transformation timeline,” Riot has informed employees that Gelb will be suspended without pay for his behaviour and undergo training before returning to the company in two months, Kotaku reported on Thursday.
Riot, whose extremely popular “League of Legends” is the most watched esport, has 2,500 employees, 80% of whom are men, according to Kotaku. Riot is a subsidiary of Tencent, the Chinese conglomerate and world’s largest video-game publisher.
In an internal email first obtained by Kotaku and later published in full by Variety, Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent said the decision to suspend but ultimately retain Gelb was made following a joint investigation by a board-of-directors committee and the law firm Seyfarth Shaw.
Riot said in a statement: “After carefully reviewing and considering the findings, the Special Committee of Riot’s Board of Directors determined that a two-month, unpaid leave of absence, along with training, was the appropriate action given the allegations that were substantiated. We can also confirm that many of the rumours circulating about Scott within the company, the media, and other channels were actually not true.”
The email and statement don’t specify what Riot found to be false or the behaviour Gelb was suspended for, though it was generally described as inappropriate, unprofessional, and unacceptable.
Read more: 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 where women were rated on their ‘hotness,’ told that ‘no doesn’t necessarily mean no,’ and shown unsolicited photos of male genitalia
Laurent asked Riot employees to join him in uplifting Gelb as a leader upon his return, commending his fellow executive’s choice to seek “redemption” rather than leave the company. He said Gelb would “help make Riot a more diverse and inclusive organisation.”
“Scott could have avoided owning his past and his consequences,” Laurent said in the email. “He could have left Riot. Scott chose ownership and redemption. I will root for him, will support him through this journey, and will leverage him as a great leader when he returns next year. I hope you will join me.”
A ‘slap on the wrist’
Kotaku said it spoke to several current Riot employees who were frustrated with the company’s decision to retain Gelb. One person likened the two-month suspension as “a tiny slap on the wrist” and described the decision to keep Gelb as disrespectful to employees affected by his behaviour.
In its August apology, Riot said it was willing to remove employees and make large-scale changes as part of its internal investigation.
“No one and nothing is sacred,” the company’s blog post said. “We are prepared to make big changes and have begun taking action against specific cases, including removal of Rioters, though we aren’t likely to get into those details publicly on a case-by-case basis for legal and privacy reasons.”
Laurent said in the email that Riot remained committed to protecting employees during the investigation but that Gelb’s case was an exception because of his high-visibility role within the company.
The company is also facing a legal challenge from a class-action gender-discrimination lawsuit filed in November by two female Riot employees, one former and one current, alleging that the company’s “bro culture” negatively affected their careers.
Other Riot employees have been accused of sending unsolicited pictures of their genitals and maintaining a list of the “hottest” employees. The lawsuit also alleges that male Riot employees used the word “dick” 500 times in the workplace over a month.
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