In December, League of Legends studio Riot Games agreed to a $10 million settlement in a class action lawsuit filed against it in 2018, arising from claims of systemic sexism and gender-based discrimination at the studio. The settlement would be divided between roughly 1000 women employed by the studio between November 2014 and the settlement's approval by the court.
The situation got a whole lot sticker in January when California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing got involved, saying that the plaintiffs were owed a lot more than what they were settling for—in the neighborhood of $390 million more, in fact.
Riot, naturally, was "dismayed," saying that it had "worked hard to negotiate with the lawyer representing the class to reach an agreement that we collectively believe is fair for the class members." The plaintiffs were also apparently dismayed, not with the DFEH but with their lawyers, and so they went out and got some new ones: Genie Harrison, a women's rights attorney who has previously been involved in the legal actions against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and California employment lawyer Joseph Lovretovich.
"These brave women spoke out against gender inequality and sexism, and I want to make sure they are fairly compensated," Harrison said in a statement. "Our well-qualified statisticians are already analyzing pay data. We intend to recover the compensation due to the women of Riot Games and achieve institutional reform, in order to level the playing field for women."
The new legal team has withdrawn the motion to approve the $10 million settlement while they obtain "expert analysis of the alleged pay disparities for the women of Riot Games," something the DFEH said the original lawyers on the case failed to do. The department also accused the plaintiffs' original legal team of making multiple procedural mistakes in the case, and of failing to include non-monetary terms in the agreement: "No enforceable changes to employment policies, at a company alleged to be rife with sexism, are part of the settlement," it said in January.
Despite its reaction to the DFEH intervention, Riot told The Hollywood Reporter that it supports the rights of the plaintiffs to seek new legal representation.
"We are aware that Plaintiffs' new counsel withdrew the pending Motion for Preliminary Approval, which will give them adequate time to review the proposed settlement agreement. We also filed a joint statement with their new counsel noting that we remain committed to working towards a fair resolution for everyone involved," a spokesperson said.
"With respect to the outlandish numbers posited by the DFEH, we’ll say again that there is no basis in fact or reason that would justify that level of exposure and we believe that any assertions to the contrary can simply not be made in good faith. While we have acknowledged that there is work that we needed to do to better live up to our values, we have also made clear to our employees that we will defend ourselves against false narratives and unfair claims that do nothing to remedy any hardships of actual class members."