Riot’s Sexual Assault Case Gains Steam As Plaintiffs Hire Counsel That Led To Harvey Weinstein Being Jailed

Riot’s Sexual Assault Case Gains Steam As Plaintiffs Hire Counsel That Led To Harvey Weinstein Being Jailed
Credit: Riot Games via YouTube

While everyone is busy celebrating Riot’s bizarre tactic of Valorant being streamed and watched by almost a million viewers all desperate to be included in the beta, the company itself looks to be on the back foot in regards to the sexual assault and harassment case being pursued against them. It’s a case that has been ongoing for well over a year, with no resolution in sight as Riot continues to attempt to settle with the plaintiffs out of court.

For context, Riot allegedly had a bit of a problem with women on their workforce regarding treating them like humans. While paying them less than their male counter-parts is one aspect of the case, it gets a bit more sinister; female employees were ranked by a ‘hot girl list’ by various unnamed male upper management, women were shown pictures of male genitalia by their bosses and colleagues, yet the indecency didn’t stop with women. COO Scott Gelb was suspended for his proclivity of striking male genitals along with allegations of ‘phantom humping’ and crotch-grabbing which all allegedly took place in the company based in Los Angeles.

Note: This article previously stated that Scott Gelb was included in the sexual harassment towards women. The events were tenuously linked at best based on chronological reporting, and the statement was in error. Riot is unaware of any complaints regarding Scott Gelb participating in the infamous ‘hot girl’ list.

Scott Gelb received a two-month suspension for ‘misconduct’ and is back to working at Riot Games.

Riot attempted to settle the case to the tune of $10 million being paid out to women that were in Riot’s active workforce for the past five years, yet two California agencies stepped in to stop that settlement, believing the women who worked there and thus allegedly subjected to sexual assault and harassment, deserved far more.

The two primary plaintiffs that came forward to shine a light on the abuse, Jessica Negron and Gabriela Downie, were reportedly to receive $10,000 each from the settlement; the most of any of the women. The two agencies that opposed Riot’s attempted settlement were the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and the Department of Labor Standards & Enforcement.

Sources: ESPNBusiness Insider

Note: Contrary to what BI and ESPN have reported, Riot states that the class-action settlement takes tenure into account, meaning many women who have worked at Riot Games would ultimately receive more. Jessica Negron and Gabriela Downie (Melanie McCracken withdrew from the case) would receive a $10,000 ‘enhancement’ as ‘acknowledgment of their time spent on the case’.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing stated that, upon analyzing the egregious pay gap between male and female employees, the settlement should be far higher – in the ballpark of $400 million total being dispersed to employees. The case is now being led by new counsel for the plaintiffs, Genie Harrison and Joseph Lovretovich, which may give Riot a moment of pause; Genie Harrison had a direct hand in both protecting and seeking justice for the women that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted, which led to him being imprisoned. The change of counsel was announced on February 21st, after the February 1st hearing.

“We don’t step into these types of cases lightly,” Lovretovich said in a statement. “But where questions of fairness and justice are at stake, we want to ensure these class representatives are getting the justice they seek.”

Riot Games didn’t take the $400 million figure entirely too well, claiming that the figure wasn’t realistic and was more ‘clickbait’ than anything. Riot Games added that they ‘will defend ourselves against false narratives and unfair claims that do nothing to remedy any hardships of actual class members.’

Note: While multiple outlets claim that the two departments are working in tandem on this case, only the DFEH proposed the $400 million.

Sources: LA TimesGamesIndustryTheVerge

There have currently been no public announcements that the plaintiffs are seeking criminal charges against the employees at Riot Games that took part in the sexual harassment and assault, which is likely due to the forced third-party arbitration.

Riot Games continued to struggle with the ongoing allegations as employee tensions continued to strain. The forced arbitration clause, that Riot has employees sign when they are hired, outlined that Riot employees (known as Rioters) cannot seek reparations from court due to misconduct at Riot; instead, they are to participate in third-party-led arbitration. This caused many employees to walk out in protest, inspired by workers from Google walking out when confronted with similar arbitration agreements. Riot then backed down ever-so-slightly, announcing that new employees are allowed to opt-out of the forced-arbitration clause and seek compensation through the court system in the event of sexual assault and harassment.

Note: This originally stated incorrectly that Riot had employees sign the forced arbitration clause which inspired the walk-outs. This is factually incorrect; the arbitration clause was signed upon onboarding new employees; the walk-out was to protest the companies policy of forced arbitration, which Riot commended employees for participating in via blog post.

Sources: PolygonRPSTheVerge

Secondly, Riot Games hired their first-ever Chief Diversity Officer Angela Roseboro in light of the scandal. Roseboro was previously employed at Dropbox and had her work cut out for her in the allegedly toxic environment at Riot Games.

This article paints a generally unfavorable view of Riot Games as their culture allegedly was in late 2018. It is a piece that strives for accuracy based on third-party outlets as a point of reference in ongoing litigation, which has yet to reach its conclusion. I strived to be as objective as possible in everything and frankly wish for nothing but the best for Riot Games moving forward. Multiple outlets have reported that Riot Games’ culture has grown by leaps and bounds since the allegations surfaced, and it is my sincere hope that they can continue to experience equal growth and opportunity well into the future.