League of Legends League of Legends

Riot Games, the Chinese-owned Los Angeles-based game developer best known for League of Legends (pictured at top), has agreed to pay $100 million to settle a class-action gender-discrimination lawsuit.

What sparked the lawsuit: Following a 2018 Kotaku investigation that revealed a workplace rife with sexism and gender-based discrimination, two Riot workers – Melanie McCracken and Jes Negrón – filed suit against the company. The class-action eventually represented 1,065 current and former women employees, and 1,300 women contract workers.

The settlement terms: Riot reached the agreement with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and several private plaintiffs. Under the terms of the settlement, Riot will pay $80 million to the workers, with another $20 million set aside for attorney fees and “miscellaneous expenses.” Further, Riot has agreed to have its internal reporting and pay equity processes monitored by a third party for three years. The company will also create an $18 million cash reserve for making pay adjustments and funding diversity, equity, and inclusion programs for three years. Final approval of the settlement is pending; a hearing is expected next year.

How Riot is spinning the settlement: The company said in a statement:

Three years ago, Riot was at the heart of what became a reckoning in our industry. We had to face the fact that despite our best intentions, we hadn’t always lived up to our values. As a company we stood at a crossroads; we could deny the shortcomings of our culture, or we could apologize, correct course, and build a better Riot. We chose the latter. We’re incredibly grateful to every Rioter who has worked to create a culture where inclusivity is the norm, where we’re deeply committed to fairness and equality, and where embracing diversity fuels creativity and innovation.

While we’re proud of how far we’ve come since 2018, we must also take responsibility for the past. We hope that this settlement properly acknowledges those who had negative experiences at Riot and demonstrates our desire to lead by example in bringing more accountability and equality to the games industry.

The big picture: The gaming industry has faced a reckoning over gender discrimination and sexual harassment over the past couple years. Other companies like Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft have also been accused of toxic cultures that are hostile towards women. But this is not specific to gaming; similar stories are often heard in gaming’s sister industries – animation and visual effects. As all of these industries continue to mature and reap large financial rewards, the lax operational standards of decades past are no longer being tolerated by workers. Companies should start cleaning house – or lawsuits like the one against Riot will do it for them.

Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi is Cartoon Brew's Publisher and Editor-at-large.

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