Last year, Riot Games had a number of key events last year that significantly affected employee trust in the company. Following a bombshell report from Kotaku about company culture and harassment, the company pledged to do better in the future. Some employees and former employees, however, decided to sue the company with specific allegations in 2018. Last week, Riot filed motions to force two of those lawsuits into private arbitration, which is a dispute resolution that takes place outside of the legal court system. To put it cynically, or perhaps realistically, it is a method that tends to most benefit the larger company impaneling the decision-makers. Successfully winning this motion would change Riot’s policies to make it so employees who have been hired by the company would be required to go to arbitration for grievances instead, specifically for sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.
As a result of this decision, Riot employees threatened to walk out, according to emails obtained by Waypoint. While Riot didn’t back away from their position of arbitration at the time, they invited employees to discuss the issues with management “in small groups.” Today, the company has decided to adjust their arbitration clause, but only for new employees. Those who were hired at Riot before still would not have the legal right to sue the company in court.
“As soon as current litigation is resolved, we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims,” Riot wrote in a blog post today. “At that time, we will also commit to have a firm answer around expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters.”
The decision, while a concession from management, has a number of important qualifiers. As mentioned, this would only be for new hires. Employees hired before the end of these current lawsuits that may not have spoken up yet do not share those rights. A new employee is also given a choice to opt-out, not to opt-in. Management could theoretically pressure employees not to do so to be a team player or the option could simply be lost in paperwork during onboarding. There’s also no concrete answer about when this will start beyond the vague termination of the current litigation, which might drag on for years.
“We are facing a complicated situation with no perfect solution, so arriving at a decision has not been easy. We are working diligently to resolve all ongoing litigation, so that we can quickly take steps toward a solution that more Rioters feel good about,” Riot wrote.