May 3, 2019 Riot plans to drop mandatory arbitration in some cases, but those options are limited.
Last week, Riot Games faced renewed criticism – and reported threats of employee walkouts – as it filed a motion to take two plaintiffs in gender discrimination lawsuits against the company to private arbitration. Now, Riot has detailed plans to change its approach to mandatory arbitration – but in the immediate future, those changes will only go into effect for new employees.
“As soon as current litigation is resolved,” Riot says, “we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. At that time, we will also commit to have a firm answer around expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters. “
It’s a positive move, but it’s only a half step – the burden is still on employees to opt out, there’s not yet a guarantee of existing employees receiving this option, and outside sexual harassment and assault claims, arbitration is still in place. Riot says “We know that this resolution will not satisfy all Rioters,” and that “we understand and respect” potential protests of the move.
Riot’s article on the plans includes more details on how its arbitration agreements work – the company highlights its options for arbitrator selection and lack of confidentiality clauses – and it’s detailed a 90 day plan for action on diversity and inclusion, which puts some of the company’s previously stated plans for improvement on a firm timetable.
This past Sunday, Kotaku reported that Riot had claimed two employees involved in current litigation were subject to arbitration agreements. These clauses are common but controversial parts of employment contracts that force employees to take complaints that would normally be resolved through the traditional legal system into private arbitration without a jury or judge. Riot’s motion says that “claims for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, as well as for wages due, are expressly listed” in the agreement.
Ryan Saba, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, tells Kotaku that he believes there is precedent for obtaining a jury trial despite an existing arbitration agreement, and that he plans to fight the forced arbitration motion.
Riot says that it won’t discuss ongoing litigation, but told Kotaku in a statement that “We have been evaluating all of our procedures and policies, including those related to arbitration. All of that work is well underway, and as we move forward, we will not hesitate to implement changes once we have thoughtfully assessed that these changes move us is the right direction for Riot and Rioters.”
Since Kotaku’s expansive report on sexual harassment and discrimination at Riot last year, the company has publicly vowed to improve its culture, though it remains to be seen how effective those efforts will be over time. Riot’s diversity efforts expanded earlier this year as the company announced it had hired Angela Roseboro, formerly of Dropbox, as its first chief diversity officer.