With the Blizzard sex discrimination scandal unfolding, a redditor discovered that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the same agency that sued Activision Blizzard, filed a similar lawsuit against Riot Games back in February.
DFEH alleged that Riot Games violated the law in multiple ways. The list of allegations includes:
- gender discrimination in hiring,
- pay and promotion inequality;
- sexual harassment;
- and retaliation by Riot Games against its female employees.
While many Riot employees signed the forced arbitration agreement when hired (as did Blizzard employees), DFEH, which is joined by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) in the Riot case, explains that a class case is not subject to arbitration. It means that even women who signed arbitration agreements or other agreements should be included in the case. Importantly, the agency emphasizes that it’s unlawful for Riot to retaliate against its current or former employees for speaking to the government, or otherwise participating or cooperating in a government proceeding.
The Riot lawsuit was filed when Riot Games offered a $10 million collective settlement to female employees. DFEH and DLSE intervened, prompting California to request the company to pay $400 million in damages. The litigation is still ongoing, which, of course, means that the Blizzard proceedings will also take a while.
There are other similarities between the situations at the two companies. Even before the current lawsuit by DFEH and DLSE, Riot employees held a walkout at the company’s studio in Los Angeles. This was in May 2019, and the walkout came in response to the company’s forced arbitration policy, which was symptomatic of Riot’s “bros before hoes” workplace culture. The Riot protest was arguably the first labor-related walkout at a large game studio. Now, Blizzard Activision employees are fighting the company’s “bro culture” with a walkout of their own. The protesters are demanding “an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts,” among other things.
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