As Deadline Passes, Riot Games Doesn't Budge On Key Walkout Issue

Ryze: Call of Power (Image: Riot Games)

Despite a walkout of hundreds of its employees last week, League of Legends publisher Riot Games said yesterday that they will not change their stance on forced arbitration. Protesting employees had given the company until yesterday to make a change, threatening to escalate their efforts if it did not.

“We know not everyone agrees with this decision, but we also know everyone does want Riot to continue to improve,” the company said in a blog post yesterday.

The walkout was inspired by Riot’s motion to force arbitration in the case of two current employees who filed a lawsuit alleging Riot violated California’s Equal Pay Act, following a Kotaku report on endemic sexism at the company. By their first day of work, employees at Riot waive their right to get any lawsuit against the company in front of a jury.

Recently, Google ended forced arbitration after 20,000 employees walked out. (Facebook, eBay and AirBnB followed suit.) The controversial practice has become a hot-button issue as employees at large tech companies argue that it prevents them from holding employers accountable for misbehaviour.

Prior to the walkout, Riot said that it would allow new employees to opt out of the arbitration agreement. They continued that they would consider extending that to current employees “as soon as current litigation is resolved”.

In a blog post yesterday, Riot announced that “Ultimately, given the complexities of ongoing litigation, we will not change our employee agreements while in active litigation.”

That was essentially a reiteration of their prior position, though they left the door open for change: “We remain committed to having a firm answer around extending an opt-out to all Rioters when active litigation concludes.”

At the walkout, employees announced they would escalate the issue if Riot didn’t make a commitment to end forced arbitration by May 16. Reached for comment, one walkout organiser, Jocelyn Monahan, speaking on behalf of the group, said they will be taking further action.

“We’re disappointed leadership doesn’t seem to be considering any major changes to their active policy. That said, we’re blown away by the passion, solidarity, and vulnerability that workers who support the walkout are showing,” she said in a message to Kotaku.

She continued, “As we continue to pressure Riot to end forced arbitration, we are leveraging that teamwork and solidarity by involving more coworkers in the effort.” Although Monahan was vague about their efforts’ next steps, it appears organisers will continue pushing Riot to end forced arbitration and come to a decision on how next week.


Comments

    So the company is trying to entice current workers to ditch their old co-workers in favour of themselves? “Look, we might consider making things better for you, but you know, these other bad people that are suing us, well, it’s all their fault we can’t!”

    What an asshole move.

      That's a simplistic interpretation of events. It makes total sense that they can't change policies that are at the heart of a current legal battle while it is ongoing. It would completely affect the outcome of the case.

        "It would completely affect the outcome of the case." And so it should! It's only a downside for those who want forced arbitration.

        Not necessarily. It wouldn't have to be retroactive.

    it maybe an asshole move, but you would pull that same move if someone was sueing you, so dont be an asshole and think it thro

    I'm behind the workers 100% but I gotta say I've never had to do this much extra research on a situation and been even more confused on specifics than when I started.
    I would have thought that given the scale, importance and interest that somebody would be hitting the bricks to deliver some definitive coverage with some expert contribution.

    I've found comments from employees stating they aren't against arbitration as long as it's not for matters of sexual harassment but found statements saying it's all forms of arbitration they are seeking to end for all employees past preset and future.
    (Which means employees are going to end up going against the state legislation itself?)

    Something I have been the most curious about is how the arbitration system actually works in Riot and for the state in which Riot operates, that's been an extremely tough one to nail down.
    I know how it works here but info has been really vague and conflicting over that side of the ditch.
    One tidbit I've found is that Riot possibly uses a singular arbitrator for the entire process which I can't actually confirm.
    The other part I'm most curious about is if arbitration actually means you give up the right to sue regardless of the outcome.
    The most I've come up with is, yes, no and maybe, depending on a number of factors.

    The only thing I can say for sure is, America.....your law system is shit.

      Yeah, this is the whole problem with this Riot thing, after several articles, I'm still no clearer on what specifically has the employees riled up and what alternatives if any, they are proposing. I know Kotaku did coverage on this thing but arbitration is not a bad thing across the board, often it's very beneficial to employees as well. Is this a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

      The main draw of arbitration is that it means that access to justice is relatively quick and cheap.

      The downside is that there can be perceptions of bias if the arbitrator is selected by the employer, and the arbitrator can only act within their terms of reference, which may mean that outcomes sought by the employees might not be within the arbitrator's power to award.

        No I do get that but it's the specifics of this case and it's overall coverage that I'm talking about.
        It seems everyone is just sitting back and waiting for people to tell them what's going on, rather than chasing the story.
        Full credit to Kotaku for its original article revealing the extent of Riots problems but I would've thought they might have capitalised on that considering they helped kick this all off in their view.

        For example, there has been a bill before the US Supreme Court calling for the end of forced arbitration for nearly as long as the Riot story has been happening and I've yet to see an single outlet bring it up.
        It was defeated last week for what it's worth which doesn't really bode well for this case or any other in the future.
        Let's face it, that's where the support prob should have focused.

      In general, I understand that enforced arbitration does indeed bind you and you are unable to sue or appeal the outcome generally. It's sold as being quicker, cheaper and potentially better for the employee, and indeed there are rare companies where that would be true. But arbitrators are indeed chosen by the company, making the company their employer, which provides a perverse incentive to minimise awards. Recent reviews indicate that arbitration is successful only a fraction of the time that you would find in federal courts, the awards are much smaller, and often a confidentiality clause applies that prevents meaningful loss of reputation for bad behaviour. Of course this is a self-selecting group given that legal action is often not pursued for smaller claims given the large costs involved in bringing an action. Plus it often is aimed to prevent class action lawsuits.

      I'm certainly against commercial forms of arbitration where the arbitrator has perverse incentive to provide a particular outcome. But I've seen state-based arbitration services work reasonably well (e.g. a lot of Australian states for workplace relations matters). And optional arbitration makes plenty of sense.

        Um, I fear my point is being misunderstood, possibly by my own lack of clarity in commenting.
        Correct me if I'm wrong but what your saying is you kinda, maybe, sorta have a broad idea of how arbitration in the US kinda, maybe, sorta works, no?
        If so, that's what I'm getting at.

        In my experiences arbitration works fine and while I've never seen it in action I've seen it plenty of times in contracts I've looked over.
        But Australia is a very different beast to the US, we have a lot more protections, rights and requirements that can overturn attempts at dodgy arbitration.

    Forced arbitration should be illegal.

      Or at least made to work as intended through fair representation, impartial oversight and lawful resolution.
      It sure as hell should never be allowed for more serious crimes like sexual harassment and void any further recourse or transperancy if unsuccessful.

        What's wrong with the existing court system, which has fair representation, impartial oversight and lawful resolution? Forced arbitration is always an attempt to get around at least one of these.

          From my own personal opinion nothing but you do realise arbitration is a part of that system though right?

      The reasons behind forced arbitration were genuinely meant to be good, its just how they've used it thats made it bad. Done right, it saves a lot of time and cost on both sides of a dispute and keeps the courts clearer of essentially trivial matters.

      Done wrong you get the problems we hear about all the time. They've basically made it Industrial Relations, proudly sponsored by Your Boss. With the inevitable bias that goes along with that.

        If it works well when done right, and can benefit both sides, then surely arbitration should be optional and not mandatory

      In Australia it is

      It is. This is something the employee signs up to when they accept the employment contract. Inequality of bargaining power is the bigger problem.

    Their refusal to budge on this means one thing... They guilty as hell.

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