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Riot Games employees walk out to protest forced arbitration in sexual harassment claims

  • More than 150 workers at Riot Games walked out of the video game company's Los Angeles headquarters Monday protesting the company's use of arbitration to handle sexual discrimination claims. 
  • Riot Games allegedly forced two plaintiffs in sexual discrimination cases into arbitration last month. Five former and current employees have filed lawsuits against the company since August. 
  • The video game developer said that it would not change policies while it's currently in active litigation, but plans to give new employees the option to opt-out of mandatory arbitration. It said it will consider extending the option to all employees. 

More than 150 workers at video game developer Riot Games, known for fan favorites like League of Legends, walked out of the company's Los Angeles headquarters Monday to protest the use of arbitration to handle sexual discrimination claims.

Employees are protesting the decision last month by the company to force two plaintiffs in sexual discrimination cases into arbitration, the Los Angeles Times reported. The company had been saddled with a sexual harassment scandal since August when video game blog Kotaku published a report alleging inappropriate treatment towards employees.

Since then, five current and former employees filed lawsuits, accusing the company of gender-based discrimination and harassment, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"To every former, current, & future female Rioter, I am sorry I didn't speak up when I experienced sexism at Riot... I want you to know that my silence ended today," Ronnie Blackburn, Riot Games researcher and walkout organizer, tweeted in August.

The protest, which workers say is the first of its kind in the video game industry, is only the latest walkout to shine a light on what critics call a culture of sexism in tech companies and in particular a male-dominated "bro culture" popularized by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

In November, 20,000 employees at Google staged a walkout protesting the tech giant's sexual misconduct allegations. As a result, Google promised it would change its mandatory arbitration policy for employees. Other companies, like Facebook, Lyft, Microsoft and Uber, also committed to enact new policies. 

Ellen Pao addresses sexism and discrimination in Silicon Valley

Riot Games said in a public post Friday that it would not change its employee arbitration policies while the company is currently in active litigation, but said it would give all new Riot employees the option to opt-out of mandatory arbitration as soon as its lawsuits are resolved.

The video game developer also said that it would deliver an answer on whether it will extend that opt-out option to all past and present employees. "We know that this resolution will not satisfy all Rioters. We understand and respect Rioters who choose to protest this decision on Monday," the company said in the post. 

Riot Games also promised to commit to interviewing a diverse slate of candidates for new job listings.

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