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California claims Riot is delaying its sexual harassment investigation

League of Legends art.
(Image credit: Riot Games)

California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the government agency that recently exposed a damning culture of abuse and harassment at Activision Blizzard, now claims League of Legends maker Riot Games is dragging its heels in a similar investigation.

Last month, a Redditor spotted that the DFEH had posted a litigation notice against Riot regarding abuse and harassment claims going back to 2018. Notably, that posting specified that arbitration agreements could not be excluded from a government investigation, despite Riot's desire to settle with arbitration terms.

The DFEH's investigation doesn't seem to have been met in the best of faith by the studio, however. In a statement posted this week (via Kotaku), the DFEH claims that Riot has delayed telling workers they have a right to speak about "sexual harassment and other unlawful workplace practices" for two months.

"In 2019, more than a year after the government opened a company-wide investigation of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and sexual assault at Riot Games, the company announced it had reached secret settlement agreements with approximately 100 women who waived their claims and rights, without notice of the government’s actions. For the next 18 months, the DFEH sought the secret settlement agreements. The Court ordered Riot to produce them to the government in January 2021; however, Riot delayed production until April 2021. Alarmed by language in Riot’s settlement and separation agreements that suggested employees could not voluntarily and candidly speak with the government about sexual harassment and other violations, and obtain relief in the government’s actions, DFEH promptly moved for relief from the Court. The Court ordered Riot to issue the corrective notice; however, Riot has delayed the process for two months."

In a statement to PC Gamer, Riot countered claims that it was forbidding employees from speaking to the DFEH, saying: "Notices are being sent to former employees to confirm that Riot’s severance agreements have never in any way prohibited speaking to government agencies. Riot has never and will never retaliate against anyone for talking to any government agency. In fact, our standard severance agreement has included the following language for many years (predating Kotaku's original reporting and any involvement from the DFEH).

Excerpt from Riot's severance agreement

(Image credit: Riot Games)

"The court went out of its way to say sending these notices in no way indicates any judgement against Riot on the DFEH allegations, and the judge recognized that Riot has always maintained that our agreements allow people to make government complaints."

Following Activision's own DFEH lawsuit, Blizzard president J Allen Brack and head of HR Jesse Meschuk departed the company. Workers at the company still aren't entirely satisfied with Activision's response, however, rejecting CEO Bobby Kotick's statement and damning the company's choice to investigate processes using a union-busting third-party interlocutor.

This story has been updated with comment from Riot Games.

Natalie Clayton

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time—and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and having herself developed critically acclaimed small games like Can Androids Pray, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She's also played for a competitive Splatoon team, and unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.