Riot Games announced that they are investigating allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment that were made against their CEO Nicolas Laurent by former Riot employee Sharon O’Donnell, Daily Esports reports. The internal investigation comes a month after O'Donnell filed a lawsuit against Riot and Laurent in the Los Angeles County Superior Court for labor and gender discrimination.
“Core to giving Rioters confidence in our commitment to culture transformation is taking all allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously, thoroughly investigating claims and taking action against anyone who is found to have violated our policies,” explained Riot spokesperson Joe Hixson. “In this case, because some of the claims relate to an executive leader, a special committee of our Board of Directors is overseeing the investigation, which is being conducted by an outside law firm.”
In her lawsuit, O'Donnell alleges that Laurent engaged in various forms of discriminatory conduct and sexual harassment. She further alleges that her employment was ultimately terminated by Riot because she reported his malfeasance. She also argued that Riot engaged in illegal employment practices that are unrelated to the CEO's conduct.
During her time working for Riot, O’Donnell served as an executive assistant to Laurent. According to her lawsuit, while in this role Laurent made a number of inappropriate comments and sexual advances toward O'Donnell and other women who worked for the Riot.
The complaint cites a few specific examples of this alleged misconduct, claiming that:
- Laurent told female employees that the best way to handle their pandemic related stress was to have children
- Laurent yelled at her on multiple occasions and that he told her to “watch her tone”
- Laurent made unwanted sexual advances toward her, including asking her to travel with him outside work
In the lawsuit, O'Donnell said that Laurent became angry when she turned down his sexual advances and that she was ultimately terminated due to her refusal of those advances. She believes this to be the case because her termination came to a short while after she reported his behavior to Riot’s human resources department.
While Riot is investigating the CEO’s conduct, they have firmly denied the allegation that O'Donnell was terminated due to reporting any alleged misconduct.
A Riot spokesperson told the Washington Post that, “The plaintiff was dismissed from the company over seven months ago based on multiple well-documented complaints from a variety of people. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
In addition to the allegations of discrimination and harassment, O’Donnell is also seeking damages for several labor violations. She argues that Riot is in violation of various California Labor Codes, because she was a non-exempt employee who was treated as exempt. According to the complaint, Riot made her work 10 hour days, in addition to significant overtime, without being compensated for that extra work.
Riot is already currently under investigation by the Department of Fair Employement and Housing (DFEH) as well as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). In a joint statement on February 3rd, 2021, the DFEH and DLSE announced they are pursuing litigation against the company for gender discrimination, sexual harassment, pay and promotion violations, and retaliation against female employees.
Riot is also facing numerous personal lawsuits from former female employees who are seeking damages for alleged discriminatory conduct that dates back to 2018 and before.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.