Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Former employee Sues Riot Games CEO for Sexual Harassment, Discrimination

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Former Riot Games executive assistant Sharon O’Donnell brought a lawsuit against Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent and the company as a whole, alleging that during his three years at the company, Laurent l ‘sexually harassed, discriminated against, and retaliated against her when she complained about the behavior to HR. Vice, O’Donnell was hired at Riot in October 2017 as Laurent’s executive assistant. Shortly after being hired, she says Laurent started harassing her and continued to do so until she claimed she was wrongly fired in July 2020.

Among the specific incidents mentioned in the lawsuit were Laurent calling O’Donnell “beautiful” and telling him that his wife was jealous of beautiful women, criticizing O’Donnell’s tone for calling him “abusive” and saying that ‘she should be’ more feminine ‘, yelling and speaking to O’Donnell in a condescending manner, looking at her while describing her underwear and underwear size, suggesting female employees should handle the stress of COVID -19 having children, asking O’Donnell not to let his wife know how close they were, putting his arm around her, asking that she “could handle it when they were alone at his house” , and telling O’Donnell that she should “cum” at his place while his wife was away.

Further, O’Donnell alleges that Laurent both explicitly and implicitly made various professional services a condition of his acceptance of sexual conduct. She says that after refusing the offer to visit Laurent’s home, “her hostility and anger increased,” she was subjected to more yelling and was stripped of various tasks. She alleges that a complaint to HR only sparked more criticism and that she was ultimately fired from the company.

O’Donnell is also suing Riot not only for failing to prevent harassment, but also for failing to pay wages in a timely manner, claiming that she was not paid for all hours worked, including overtime. She also alleges that the company did not provide for legally compulsory rest and meal breaks.

In a statement shared with IGN, a spokesperson for Riot said the following:

“Over the past few years, workplace culture has been one of our top priorities and we are proud of the steps we’ve taken to make Riot Games a great place to work. To give Rioters confidence in our Commitment to Cultural Transformation Take all allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously, thoroughly investigate complaints and take action against anyone who violates our policies.

“In this case, as some of the complaints relate to an executive officer, a special committee of our board is overseeing the investigation, which is being conducted by an external law firm. Our CEO is committed to cooperation and support fully during this and we are committed to ensuring that all complaints are thoroughly investigated and resolved appropriately.The spokesperson added that O’Donnell was “fired from the company over seven months ago following more than a dozen complaints from employees and external partners,” and Riot continues in saying, “Any suggestion is just plain wrong.”

O’Donnell’s trial describes a “male-dominated culture” in Riot where women are “discriminated against, harassed and treated as second-class citizens”, and specifically refers to a series of legal and collective battles against Riot Games’ work culture, which in 2018 from many sources described as toxic and sexist. Riot has since attempted to address workplace culture issues with various policy changes and the hiring of its first Diversity Director, but the issues have remained in the spotlight ever since due to a class action filed by current and former employees alleging gender discrimination.

The lawsuit met with obstacles, with Riot alleging that the people suing were not legally able to do so due to the signing of forced arbitration clauses in their contracts, leading employees to strike in 2019 in solidarity with the filing of lawsuits and against these clauses. Riot ultimately attempted to settle the lawsuit by pay $ 10 million in damages, but the rule was withdrawn later after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and the Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE) deemed the amount too low.

Then, last month, Riot moved to put the case back to arbitration – resulting in the issue by the DFEH and the DLSE of a joint statement last week, alleging that Riot Games violated the law by discriminating against female employees. The agencies said they would take legal action against the company on behalf of all the women involved, including those who had signed arbitration agreements.

Rebekah Valentine is a journalist at IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.


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