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California regulators to Riot Games: 'let your employees know they can speak to us'

The California DFEH has filed a request asking a court to compel Riot Games to inform employees they are legally able to discuss their experiences with state regulators.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed a request asking a court to compel Riot Games to inform employees they are legally able to discuss their experiences with state regulators.   

The filing is the latest salvo in a turbulent back-and-forth process that involves Riot Games, the California DFEH, and a group of plaintiffs who filed a class action lawsuit against Riot Games in 2019. That lawsuit was on track to be settled for $10 million, before state regulators stepped in and protested what it called a too-low amount.

Since then, Riot Games has attempted to wrangle the lawsuit back into arbitration, only to face pushback from the plaintiffs who’d previously agreed to the $10 million settlement.

In the back-and-forth that’s followed, the California DFEH obtained a ruling on June 4 compelling Riot Games to inform employees that they have a legal right to share their stories with the California DFEH.

According to state regulators, they requested that notification after finding language in some of Riot’s legal agreements with former employees “that suggested employees could not voluntarily and candidly speak with the government about sexual harassment and other violations.”

Now the Department is arguing that Riot has “delayed the process” of sending out the court-required notices.

A Riot Games spokesperson told Gamasutra that the company has not been dragging its feet. “Notices are being sent to former employees to confirm that Riot’s severance agreements have never in any way prohibited speaking to government agencies,” they said.

“Riot has never and will never retaliate against anyone for talking to any government agency.”

The spokesperson also shared language from Riot Games’ severance agreement that it says confirms it has never tried to block employees or former employees from speaking with regulators.

The language states that “Nothing in this agreement prohibits you from reporting possible violations of federal or state law or regulation to any governmental agency or entity, or making other disclosures that are authorized or protected by law or regulation. You do not need the prior authorization of the Company or its legal team to make any such reports or disclosures, and you are not required to notify the Company that you have made such reports or disclosures.”

The spokesperson also stated that the court “went out of its way” to say that the notices it is sending to employees do not indicate any judgement against Riot Games based on the DFEH’s allegations.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has become a major force in the game industry’s reckoning over sexist and discriminatory workplace environments. It recently filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for allegedly fostering a hostile work environment, the fallout of which has rocked the company for the last few weeks.

If you have experience with Riot Games' exit agreements and would like to share your story privately with Gamasutra, you can e-mail us here.

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