Californian body claims League of Legends studio misled accusers
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) — incidentally the same body that recently filed suit against Activision Blizzard — has stated developer Riot Games is wilfully delaying the investigation into accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the studio. The DFEH’s new claims make up the latest chapter in a long-running controversy that dates back to November 2018.
At that time, Riot Games was being held under scrutiny by the U.S. Government after company-wide allegations of discrimination, assault, and sexual harassment against its women employees. The lawsuit saw a potential out-of-court settlement of around $10 million USD, as well as unsuccessful efforts by Riot to push individual employee cases into arbitration, but The DFEH intervened, believing that the affected employees are entitled to a much higher figure, potentially around the $400 million mark.
From there, the case just gets messier. The DFEH claims that, during 2019, Riot Games came to “secret settlement agreements” with 100 employees, and claims that said agreements required the employees to waive all of their rights to speak out to governing bodies — including The DFEH — about behavior witnessed and experienced within the studio’s walls.
The DFEH states that Riot Games delayed court access to these “secret settlement agreements” by two months. When The DFEH finally attained the documents in April of this year, it said that it was “alarmed” by the language used in the documents, believing Riot Games misled its employees as to their rights to speak about their respective experiences.
Stating Riot does not have legal permission to essentially pay for its employees’ silence, The DFEH asked the Los Angeles Superior Court to order Riot to clarify to its employees their legal rights in regards to whistleblowing. However, Riot is now accused of further delaying this latest step, which was originally ordered back in April, and is allegedly yet to be completed.
Riot Games denies the accusations.
“Notices are being sent to former employees to confirm that Riot’s severance agreements have never in any way prohibited speaking to government agencies,” A Riot spokesperson told The Verge. In addition, the studio refutes any accusation that the severance deals forbade employees from speaking with external bodies. Riot sent The Verge a screenshot of an example severance document, which reportedly states “Nothing in this agreement prohibits you from reporting possible violations of federal or state law or regulation to any governmental agency or entity.”