Riot Files Motions To Block Current Employees From Taking Legal Action

League of Legends cinematic, “Awaken” (Image: Riot Games)

Months after five current and former employees filed lawsuits last spring and earlier this year alleging gender discrimination against League of Legends publisher Riot Games, Riot yesterday made motions to force two of those women into private arbitration, which would prevent them from taking legal action.

Riot’s argument is simple: Those women waived their rights to sue the company when they were hired.

In the motions, obtained by Kotaku today, Riot’s attorney explains that the women agreed to arbitration clauses, common parts of employment contracts that are designed to insulate corporations from legal scrutiny.

Said clauses force staff to take their complaints to private arbitration, an extra-legal system without a jury or a judge, rather than pursuing legal action. In these instances, employees are much less likely to hold employers accountable for bad behaviour.

It’s a controversial practice that has been criticised recently: Over the last couple of months, Google, Facebook and Uber announced they would end their forced arbitration practices for harassment cases.

“There can be no dispute that Plaintiff agreed to arbitration,” one document obtained by Kotaku reads, going on to note that their “claims for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, as well as for wages due, are expressly listed” in the arbitration agreement.

These lawsuits, and Riot’s latest legal move, follow a Kotaku investigation last August that detailed endemic sexism at the company, including in its hiring and promotion practices.

In the months following our story, current and former Riot employees filed four different lawsuits, many alleging that the company violated the California Equal Pay Act. Also following our story, Riot has vowed to hold itself accountable and enact widespread cultural changes.

League of Legends cinematic, “A New Dawn”. (Image: Riot Games)

Ryan Saba, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs against Riot, told Kotaku in a phone interview this morning that he plans to fight the forced arbitration and that he believes there is precedent for obtaining a jury trial even when parties involved have signed arbitration clauses.

In a press release yesterday, he wrote, “Today’s actions only serve to silence the voices of individuals who speak out against such misconduct and demonstrate that the company’s words were no more than lip service.”

When asked for comment, a Riot spokesperson sent over an e-mailed statement: “While we won’t discuss details about ongoing litigation, we look forward to resolving all matters through the appropriate processes.

“Our commitment to building and sustaining a world class, inclusive culture at Riot is unchanged and we value everyone who has come forward to help us become a better company. We have acknowledged that there are improvements we can make to our culture and community — we have made progress and are hyper-focused on continuing to do so.

“We have been evaluating all of our procedures and policies, including those related to arbitration. All of that work is well underway, and as we move forward, we will not hesitate to implement changes once we have thoughtfully assessed that these changes move us is the right direction for Riot and Rioters.”

Riot’s road to changing its culture has been rocky. After issuing a public apology several weeks after the initial report, Riot for months retained several of the men accused of sexual harassment or sexism in repeated complaints to the company.

COO Scott Gelb, whom several sources say “ball-tapped”, farted on or humped employees, remains in his position after a two-month unpaid suspension and training.

Riot also says it has been evaluating its hiring and promotion practices, as well as working on diversity and inclusion. Last year, Riot contracted Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor tasked with cleaning up Uber’s alleged sexist culture. In February, Riot announced it had hired former head of diversity at Dropbox Angela Roseboro as its chief diversity officer.

Riot has declined repeated requests for Kotaku to interview co-founders Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck about the company’s accountability process.


Comments

    Riot: "We've changed! We are entirely committed to making things right!"

    Narrator: "They were not."

      Cue Saddam's song from the South Park movie.

    Is this ever possible in Australia?
    Can we ever waive our right to being able to sue?

      Pretty sure it is illegal to do so in Australia because there is another act for human rights that overrule it.

      Probably this only work in murica.

        Land of the free and constrantly giving every other nation bull for our 'lack' of rights.

          I mean, it is the land of the free. It lets companies do this in the first place, so that's pretty free for them. :P

        Yeah, general rule in Aus is the law will have precedence over any contract or waiver of rights between two parties.

      (Responding to @letrico too)
      Yes we can give up the right to sue, such as when you choose to take damages/compensation or waving liability for personal injury.
      We also have arbitration laws and agreements similar to what's being spoken about in the article.

      I don't know the specifics of the American system but we definetly do have more protections in place and Australian courts have a lot more power in deciding if such agreements can be upheld.

      I've never personally seen any of it play out so I couldn't comment on the positives or negatives but I've definetly seen arbitration clauses in contracts for the purpose of "resolution and confidentiality"

      As I understand it, you can waive your rights here, but any waiver thats exploited to your disadvantage against common law can be contested regardless. Its why we have generic industry rights for most areas, as they define the standard conditions that cant be traded away.

      But if you trade away something like your right to overtime rates for a higher base rate of pay (may be a bad example, but its 2 in the morning), you cant argue it back without good reason.

      In the US I dont know of any real underlying standard anywhere (apart from some VERY default things) which is why companies have been able to get forced arbitration in as a standard. Times seem to be changing though.

      No, contract law in australia makes any clause of a contract that removes a legally granted right, that clause is instantly rendered null and void, and any clause that references that clause is also considered null and void.

      *not a lawyer, but have had it explained by a lawyer

    This is so depressing. I like League of Legends. I want to like Riot, they manage esports better than anyone else and present such a fun, personable front. But they're just... such... assholes!

    This is why unions are still important

      I read that first as "This is why unicorns are important". I'm really not sure why :P

        Unicorns are also important :)

        Great for riding into battle while looking fucking amazing.

    On another note, 74 fucking adverts between the article and the comments, many of them double sized. And that doesn't count the ones on the side.

    I am seriously going off Kotaku. I understand they need advertising to get paid but this is a joke and seriously affects the enjoyment of the site.

      Bruh. Last week I counted 12 full screen scrolls on my Samsung galaxy 8 before I reached the comments. It's the only site that does this.

        Its also why I dont use the site on my mobile

      Turned off adblock to have a look - holy shit! This is the exact reason why adblock is used. I whitelist some sites, but there's no way I'm doing it for this one.

    Great to see Kotaku following up on legal action around Riot. But... wheres the one to do with Funimation and the firing of Vic? Like, some of the stuff Vic is going for them with would set a precedent if he won the case, not just in the industry of voice acting, but the entirety of the USA businesses.

    This is just one of the many vids on Youtube covering it, for people who are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpUryuSUaYY

      They prob wont talk about that one as alot of the info coming out recently has made Funimation and the other defendants look not so good.

        That's kind of my point. If you're going to cover this stuff, then cover it in its complete history. Don't just ignore it because it does not fit the narrative you want to push. Kotaku is meant to be a NEWS site, yet the only time they publish anything when it comes to sexual harassment in the varies pop culter industry is when it suits there narrative. They either need to be publishing it all or none of it.

          Well, we saw what happened the first time people wanted Kotaku to have some kind of integrity when it comes to that, they just reframed the narrative.
          Expecting it now years after that, is like waiting for Harold Holt.

            It's not about waiting, its about making them do their job.

              The reasons why you don't see frequent postings about this stuff aren't because of the tinfoil garbage you both suggest. It's because there are very strong and serious legal consequences that have to be taken into consideration when covering this stuff, which people outside of media frequently forget.

              For what it's worth, Gizmodo's io9 were the ones doing the deep dive into this story (which Kotaku cross-posted, and I cross-posted here). I have no idea what the status of that is - the US is a totally separate operation to AU, as is the UK. So everything operates wholly independently in that sense. All that aside, Kotaku wouldn't run their own investigation into something io9 has been doing for months (considering how long it took to collate everything for the previous article). I can't think of any newsroom that would double up on something like that.

              People seem to have forgotten that what you can get away with publishing on YouTube just doesn't fly when you're a site or a bigger news company. The reality is that someone random channel might get *something* out sooner. But you can bet your bottom dollar it hasn't run past legal, and you can't fuck around with things like these.

              I know it's easy to make up some narrative and paint us as the enemy because ... well, that'it's easier to fly off the handle than to take a step back. But part of doing the job properly with cases like these is also being extremely careful. The job is more than what gets published on the front page - it's also making sure the process is followed properly.

                Im still a bit confused about how you used an example of the fact Kotaku rushes some poorly researched article based on a misheard lyrics out the door as an example of you making sure the process is followed properly?

                  It's a recent example highlighting why the process isn't important. Just because it came from a sister brand (a separate operation to be clear, much the same way we're run by a seperate team and company from the US) doesn't disqualify the point. If anything, it should emphasise why caution is valuable.

                  I could have picked any other example from any other period of time, but everyone makes mistakes no matter the job. Might as well use the ones closest to home as a reminder to do better every day, as far as I'm concerned.

                As much as id love you to cover the recent developments. I'd rather things be done properly rather than just rush something out lacking in facts or reason (cough ANN cough)

      All I can say is that once he wins his defamation lawsuit (Which he is most likely going to) the backtracking is going to be amazing.

      Oh, I also love jellybeans.

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