UPDATE 10pm UK: Riot Games has now issued the following response to the press release from the plantiffs’ council Genie Harrison, shared with Eurogamer:
“On Monday our Motion to Compel was granted and our arbitration agreements were once again upheld by the court. There were claims outside the scope of this motion which Riot never attempted to compel to arbitration, such as government and government-adjacent PAGA claims, which remain in court.
“This ruling will allow us to reach a fair and speedy resolution to these individual cases, some of which have already been pending for more than two years. We have always been, and will continue to be, willing to engage in constructive dialogue to bring these matters to resolution as quickly as possible — so long as the resolution is grounded in the facts of these cases.
“Notably, unlike some arbitration agreements, the agreements between Riot and its employees have no confidentiality clauses, which means plaintiffs can talk about their suit in the same ways they could in court. In addition, both parties must agree on the arbitrator, who is typically a retired judge. Either party can reject an arbitrator – for example, based on their history of past cases – and the case will not proceed until a mutually agreeable arbitrator is selected. All of the same remedies available to individuals through a court trial are available through arbitration, which means there is no cap on total potential damages awarded, or the types of damages awarded.
“Over the last two-and-a-half years, we’ve established new and updated policies and programs to promote inclusion in day-to-day life at Riot and help rebuild trust, increased diversity in our leadership team and across the company, continued to take action to ensure we are equitable to all Rioters, and established new recruiting and hiring processes to better meet our goals and improve candidate experiences. While we know we still have work to do, we’re confident in the strides we’ve made towards our ultimate goal of becoming the most inclusive company in gaming. We pledged early on to be transparent about our progress and more details on our progress can be found in our latest diversity and inclusion progress report, an updated version of which will be released in the coming months as a new annual report.”
ORIGINAL STORY 4.30pm UK: The gender discrimination class action lawsuit against Riot Games is still rumbling on, and it seems Riot is once again attempting to settle the dispute outside of court – as the company is now seeking individual arbitration.
The motion for individual arbitration, if approved by the court, would compel the plaintiffs to resolve the suit before a private judge. This would likely take the case out of public view, and force the women involved to battle the company individually.
Riot initially attempted to enforce mandatory individual arbitration back in 2019, arguing that some of the plaintiffs involved had waived their right to sue due to a clause in their employment contracts. The company faced huge backlash for doing so: over 150 employees walked out to protest the forced arbitration system. Riot eventually promised an end to mandatory arbitration for new employees, and made a class action settlement offer of $10m (£7.28m). This, in turn, was rejected in February last year after a fresh legal team was brought in to represent the class action plaintiffs, with Riot having to deny allegations it colluded with the plaintiffs’ counsel to reach the preliminary settlement (via GamesIndustry.biz). One state agency claimed the women could actually be entitled to over $400m (£291.7m).
“Now that Riot knows it can’t settle the case on the cheap, it wants to force Riot women into arbitration, preventing the women from fighting together as a group against the company,” said the plaintiffs’ counsel Genie Harrison. “If Riot succeeds, it will pay a private judge huge amounts of money to decide the fate of the women’s claims. And all that will happen in secret, with Riot’s discriminatory conduct hidden from the public.”
According to a press release, the court is currently determining whether Riot’s previous attempt to settle the class action suit “amounts to a waiver of the mandatory individual arbitration clause included in most of the plaintiffs’ employment contracts”. Eurogamer has contacted Riot for comment.
The class action lawsuit was filed in the wake of an exposé covering allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment at Riot, with a toxic “bro culture” and limited promotion opportunities for women.