In 2014, Riot Games executive assistant Melanie McCracken began to notice that her supervisor, Jin Oh, didn’t appear to be hiring women for leadership vacancies. Women were generally hired as assistants, she said in 2018 civil complaint alleging widespread sex discrimination in League of Legends editor. Oh, a company executive, “claimed it” would feel weird to have a man “in such a role,” according to the complaint. It was part of a model, she said, of Oh putting women at a disadvantage based on their sex or gender.
McCracken started looking for a new job at Riot in September 2014 – ideally one with greater upward mobility. As she tried to escape, McCracken began to sense that Oh was creating a hostile work environment. According to the complaint, she turned to human resources to report the alleged retaliation and discrimination. Soon after, McCracken found herself in a meeting with Oh to discuss the HR discussion, which she believed to be confidential.
McCracken moved from the international Riot region to the North America region in March 2015. Oh eventually landed there too, as the new acting boss. After arriving, McCracken in 2016 had “a five-month countdown to find a new job or ‘get fired,'” the complaint read. She did, in the Internal Communications Division, and Oh himself left Riot later that year. (The human resources representative McCracken spoke with left the company in 2019.)
But in 2018, Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent rehired Oh. The human resources representative has also joined the company and now heads up human resources for the Oh department. Oh now has a really long title: Riot’s president of esports, marketing, publishing operations, and international offices. None of his direct reports, with the exception of his executive assistant, is a woman. A spokesperson for Riot Games said in a statement that “there are a lot of high profile women” working in the publishing organization led by Oh.
Over the past two years, several women, most recently Sharon O’Donnell, CEO of Riot, a former executive assistant at Riot, have brought forward allegations of gender discrimination and harassment in the company. Many of those court documents – including an unreported complaint by a former Riot employee in December – point out that under Laurent’s watch, several executives remain employed at Riot despite multiple and repeated allegations of impropriety.
McCracken is one of eight women named in a potential class action lawsuit against Riot Games, alleging widespread sex discrimination. (McCracken has reached a settlement and is no longer a part of that lawsuit. Others, except one, have been referred to arbitration due to clauses signed upon hire.) Kotaku report in which dozens of current and former employees described a work environment in which women were subjected to more scrutiny in the hiring process, received fewer advancement opportunities than men, regularly made discussed in meetings and were underpaid compared to men in similar positions with similar qualifications.
Riot’s “boys club” ethic extended beyond employment practices. Sources interviewed by Kotaku reported receiving unsolicited photos of male genitals or appearing in emails or lists describing their colleagues’ sexual interest in them. Scott Gelb, COO of Riot Games – who remains with the company after a brief suspension and sensitivity training – would grab the genitals of male employees, seemingly like a joke, and fart in people’s faces, according to sources. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement are also investigating allegations of widespread gender discrimination at Riot Games.
Riot has make an effort to clean up its ranks of problem workers, offer sensitivity training and institute more structured hiring practices. Riot hired Frances Frei, a professor at Harvard Business School, as Uber introduced the to correct its supposedly sexist culture and created a position of director of diversity within the company. As lower-level and middle-level employees feel the effects of the culture shift, two sources tell WIRED that Riot’s senior management has closed ranks around some of the company’s most problematic employees, who remain at the helm of the company. the games company of 2,500 people. Laurent, they say, made an effort to retain and protect these employees.