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League of Legends creator to pay $10 million in discrimination case alleging "bro culture"

The maker of popular video game League of Legends has agreed to pay $10 million to female employees to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged widespread gender discrimination.

Los Angeles-based Riot Games will make payments to about 1,000 current and former workers who've been with the company in the last five years. The case against Riot Games claimed women were passed over for promotions, paid less than men and worked in a "bro culture" that excluded them. The lawsuit also claimed that Riot Games' corporate culture led to sexual harassment and misconduct. 

"Women are required to participate and tolerate crude male humor which include jokes about sex, defecation, masturbation, rape and torture," court documents stated. "Women who do not join in these adolescent humor jokes are classified as snobby and unwilling to fit in with the company."

Riot Games violated California's equal pay, discrimination and retaliation statues, the lawsuit alleged, noting that about 80% of Riot's 2,500 staff members are men.  

"Women are made fun of and sexually objectified," court documents stated. "There is even an ongoing e-mail chain of 'Riot Games Hottest Women Employees' which rates the hotness of each female on the list."

Earlier this year, Riot Games employees walked out of the company's L.A. headquarters to protest the company's handling of the lawsuit. Ronnie Blackburn, a Riot Games researcher, organized the walkout and said via Twitter that she would no longer be silent about what she called the sexism taking place at the company. 

The lawsuit's lead plantiffs, former employee Jessica Negron and current employee Melanie McCracken, detail personal instances of discrimination during their time at Riot Games. The plaintiff's lawyer, Ryan Saba, said the large settlement shows the company is serious about changing its culture.

In August, when the company first announced a settlement with the female employees, top executives said they conducted an investigation into employees — called Rioters — and found that "gender discrimination (in pay or promotion), sexual harassment, and retaliation are not systemic issues at Riot."

"But what we also learned during this process was that some Rioters have had experiences that did not live up to our values or culture," the company stated. "As much as we sometimes joke about ourselves still being a small indie company, the reality is that the Riot of today is different from the Riot of 2006 and in some ways, as our company grew, our culture didn't always keep up."

Riot Games spokesman Joe Hixson said Tuesday the company was pleased to have a settlement that resolved the lawsuit, calling it an important step that demonstrates a commitment to creating an "inclusive environment for the industry's best talent."

The court is expected to confirm the settlement this week.

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