Over 150 developers participated in a protest at Riot Games yesterday that aimed to end the inclusion and enforcement of forced arbitration clauses found in the company’s employment contracts.
The protest follows a series of events at the League of Legends studio that include last year’s report on toxic workplace behaviors from Kotaku, gender discrimination lawsuits from several former employees, and Riot’s recent motion to force some of the women suing the company into settling the matter in private arbitration.
Staff moved to organize a walkout once the arbitration motions came to light by way of another Kotaku report on the company’s behavior. Riot Games responded by agreeing to give new hires the option to opt out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims (following the end of current litigation), but, for existing employees, said that it would only “commit to have a firm answer around expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters.”
Kotaku reports that over 150 Riot Games employees participated in a walkout Monday afternoon, marking the first protest of this kind to hit a game development studio.
“We are what makes Riot great,” Jocelyn Monahan, a social listening strategist and participant in the walkout told Kotaku. “I want us to feel solidarity and connection with each other. I want us to feel connected. I want us to feel like our voices are heard and heard in a way that matters.”
Developers, both those at Riot Games and those standing in solidarity with the protest, took to Twitter to voice their support for the message of the walkout.
“Today myself and several of my co-workers are standing up for what is right, just, and fair in regards to Forced Arbitration and Sexual Harassment,” tweeted Mel Capperino-Garcia, associate program manager at Riot Games. ”[It's] 2019, and forcing anyone to sit in a room with the company/person who did this and "talk it out" is unacceptable.”
Clearly I love this place. Its in my user name on most platforms. Its part of who I am. That being said, the place I love is BETTER than this. Riot and the people who work here are better than these stupid policies. I want it to get better, and show my support #riotwalkout— Mel Capperino-Garcia (@Riotswimbananas) May 6, 2019
“Using forced arbitration to handle sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace prevents cultural change for a safer workplace,” said Riot associate experience designer Vivianette Ocasio in a tweet. “Quietly resolving assault and discrimination allegations protects those in power while forces victims into silence.”
Some of the critiques leveraged against the company feel unreasonable or unfair to me, others entirely correct. All come from a place of genuine hurt, and we owe it to each other to be kind, listen, and do the work of improving. Solidarity first and foremost. #riotwalkout— Davin Pavlas (@onidavin) May 6, 2019
At the time of the protest, Riot Games issued a statement to Kotaku saying “We respect Rioters who choose to walkout today and will not tolerate retaliation of any kind as a result of participating (or not).”
Kotaku notes that many of the developers it spoke to were wary of retaliation, despite Riot’s comments. Monahan also made the announcement at the end of the protest that studio leadership had until May 16th to make a commitment on the subject of staff’s forced arbitration concerns, or the walkout organizers would move toward further action.