More than 100 employee at Los Angeles video game studio Riot Games walked out of work Monday afternoon to protest the company’s forced arbitration policy for workplace disputes.
The protest comes after eight months of turmoil at the company, which has faced numerous accusations of fostering a hostile, sexist work environment. Last year, Riot Games apologized for its culture first documented in a scathing expose reported by Kotaku in August, 2018. Riot’s culture again became the center of media attention when a former high-level Riot Games employee published a blog post about the sexism he said he witnessed at the company.
Among the allegations in the blog post and lawsuit were reports of women being rated on “hotness,” executives using the slogan “no doesn’t necessarily mean no,” and women who suffered through unsolicited pictures of the male anatomy.
In November, a current and a former employee filed a class-action lawsuit for gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and unequal pay.
In December, the “League of Legends” game maker suspended its chief operating officer, Scott Gelb, for two months without pay following reports of sexual misconduct. Gelb has been accused of repeatedly farting on employees, humping them, and hitting their testicles as a part of what was described as a running workplace joke.
The same week in March Gelb was scheduled to return to work, the company announced it had hired a chief diversity officer, the Verge reported.
And in April, Riot filed a motion requesting that lawsuit be sent to private arbitration. Private arbitration makes a class action lawsuit all but impossible. It also takes the lawsuit out of the public eye.
As a result of that motion, Riot employees threatened to walk out, Vice reported at the time. Executives, including the new Chief Diversity Officer talked to employees and promised changes.
Riot Games is the latest in a string of tech companies hit by employee protests against arbitration
Last week, Riot announced that it was changing its forced arbitration policy but only after the lawsuit was resolved and only for new employees, giving them a chance to opt-out of forced arbitration” for sexual harassment and sexual assault” claims it said in a blog post. It told current employees it would tell them at a later time if it would allow them to opt-out of forced arbitration for the same claims.
The company also made a number of promises to improve its culture in the next 30, 60 and 90 days.
But protesters were not happy with that decision and so the walkout happened.
One reporter noted slogans on signs held up by protesters that said:”It shouldn’t take all this to do the right thing” and “I reported and he got promoted”.
Another protester explained in a tweet, “It should not be legal to force workers into arbitration when they suffer sexual harassment– or any other discrimination, really. It’s already not legal in several states. I’d like my company to be on the cutting edge of this issue!!”
Riot Games isn’t the only tech company facing worker revolt over forced arbitration policies. Google announced an end to forced arbitration involving sexual harassment claims in February after an employee walkout.
It followed Microsoft, which ended forced arbitration for sexual harassment in late 2017.
In late 2018, Uber whistleblower Susan Fowler also pushed for legislation to end employee forced arbitration agreements. And in 2017 she also filed a brief with the Supreme Court lobbying it to rule against forced arbitration as well.