Riot Games issues official response to employee walkout

Riot is changing its arbitration practices for new employees, but current employees remain in limbo.

Image via Riot Games

Riot Games has released a statement in the wake of reports that there will be an employee walkout on Monday protesting the company’s response to recent sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. In the statement, Riot acknowledges that the walkout is planned and says that its leadership “understand and respect Rioters who choose to protest.”

All this comes in the wake of a bombshell report from Kotaku, published in August 2018, which detailed a culture of sexism at the games developer. The report made current and former employees furious and resulted in several lawsuits against the company.

Riot forced at least one of those lawsuits into neutral arbitration, causing the latest outcry. Employees who plan to walk out are angry over the arbitration clauses in the standard Riot contract, as well as the company’s lack of transparency in detailing initiatives designed to improve company culture.

Arbitration is a common requirement of employment contracts. It frees companies from potentially lengthy and costly litigation involving former employees. In the statement, Riot indicated that its arbitration clauses provide both parties involved in a conflict with the opportunity to choose the arbitrator—either side can reject an arbitrator and the proceedings don’t continue until they agree. Litigants are also entitled to legal representation, discovery, and the ability to communicate details of the case. The full cost of arbitration is borne by Riot in these instances.

Riot maintains that it will continue pursuing arbitration for current outstanding cases, but that new employees will have the ability to opt out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. What’s unclear is how Riot will handle current employees, who have already signed contracts with arbitration clauses, who have not yet submitted a formal complaint. The company did say that “we will also commit to have a firm answer around expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters.”

The company also gave an update on its diversity and inclusion efforts this year. Specifically, it laid out 30, 60, and 90-day goals:

30 days

  • Post an internal job board so it’s easier for Rioters to explore new roles (aka “laneswap”) and advance.
  • Update our code of conduct to ensure we’re doubling down in the right places and that all our policies are crystal clear.
  • Kick off new training programs in feedback and ally skills.
  • Commit to interviewing a diverse slate of candidates for new job listings.

60 days

  • Implement a new process for interviewing for values and gaming experience.
  • Launch a new anti-harassment training for all new hires.
  • Complete Chief Diversity Officer D&I and Values listening sessions.
  • Hold Values workshops for the executive team and senior leaders.
  • Finish our full pay equity analysis.

90 days

  • Make changes to ensure fairness throughout our recruiting process.
  • Begin to roll out the results of our “job architecture” review that will help provide logic and consistency in job titles and expectations by role.
  • Launch a new cultural recognition program.
  • Create a D&I scorecard that will allow us to continue to track progress over time.

These initiatives target Riot’s hiring and promotion processes, two points of pain expressed specifically in previous reports. But Riot doesn’t aim to change the attitude of senior leadership, a specific grievance called out in the past. It appears Riot’s work in this regard remains unfinished and we’ll have to keep waiting for more details.