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Riot Games ponies up $100 million to settle sexual harassment, discrimination

The "League of Legends" creator agreed to the settlement after California regulators moved to block a previously proposed $10 million payout.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — "League of Legends" video game maker Riot Games will pay $100 million to settle claims of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against women employees.

Under the settlement, at least $80 million will go to compensate workers, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing said Monday. The settlement also requires the company to retain an independent third-party expert for three years to conduct an annual gender-equity analysis of pay, job assignments and promotions.

In 2020, the state civil rights agency and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement intervened in a class action against Riot in Los Angeles Superior Court that would have allowed the company to walk away from the workers' claims for just $10 million.

“My office determined that Riot’s proposed initial Private Attorney General Act settlement with private counsel was insufficient and did not adequately deter the company from violating women’s right to equal pay for equal work,” California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in a statement.

The video-game industry has been swept up in the #metoo movement with women workers increasingly vocal about sexual harassment and discrimination at traditionally male-dominated workplaces. Workers at Activision Blizzard took to the streets this past summer to protest what they called a "frat house" culture at the company. California sued that company as well, forcing the president of its Blizzard Entertainment division to resign.

“Three years ago, Riot was at the heart of what became a reckoning in our industry," the company said Tuesday. "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.”

Two women sued Riot in 2018, claiming there was "bro culture" at Riot in which women were regularly belittled by supervisors at staff meetings with comments such as “she talks louder than she should,” “she’s shrill,” or “she should speak less.” They also claimed women were made fun of and sexually objectified, including through an ongoing email chain of “Riot Games Hottest Women Employees.”

The settlement with California resolves claims from up to 1,065 women employees and 1,300 contract workers, according to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Women who worked as employees or contractors at Riot since Nov. 6, 2014, may be eligible to receive compensation, according to the agency.

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