The State of California—specifically, the Californian Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)—is filing an official investigation enforcement suit against League of Legends publisher and developer Riot Games.
The DFEH has requested employee pay information as a part of “an ongoing investigation into alleged gender discrimination.” According to the official press release, Riot Games refused to provide this data voluntarily, forcing DFEH to “seek assistance from the courts.”
What does this mean?
This news comes in the wake of the 2018 Kotaku investigation into Riot’s company culture. Kotaku claimed there were several examples of gross misconduct from high-ranking Riot employees, including alleged unequal pay, sexual harassment, sexual assault, retaliation, and gender discrimination in selection and promotion. The report didn’t receive an official confirmation, but less than a year later, over 150 Riot Games employees walked out as a sign of protest of the company’s forced arbitrage policy.
Of course, there’s a different side to every story. Riot’s representatives have been taken aback by the sudden enforcement suit and issued the following statement in their defense:
“We’ve been in active conversations with the DFEH since its inquiry began. Investigations like this can arise when there have been allegations of workplace disparity and we’ve been cooperating in good faith with the DFEH to address its concerns. We’ve promptly responded to the DFEH’s requests, and have produced over 2,500 pages of documents and several thousand lines of pay data so far.
We’ve also made several recent requests that the DFEH participate in a call with us to address their requests. To date, these requests have been unanswered, so we’re frankly disappointed to see the DFEH issue a press release alleging that we’ve been non-cooperative. . .”
Regardless of whether this response reflects the state of the company accurately, Riot will now have no choice but to cooperate with the DFEH. The investigation could have serious implications for the company’s future. And if any of the gender discrimination claims are proven, Riot will end up in hot water.
How will this affect LoL esports?
The enforcement suit was filed against the main Riot Games office in Los Angeles. Thus, in theory, most League of Legends competitions should be unaffected by this development. In practice, though, the main Riot Games office is the central governing body of the entire LoL esports scene.
And while the DFEH investigation won’t cripple the pro circuit, it will almost certainly hamper Riot’s ability to focus on the title’s growth.
Image courtesy of Riot Games.