Over 150 Riot Employees Walked Out In Protest Of Forced Arbitration

The first walkout of several it seems.

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Riot Games has had a controversial year, as five lawsuits were filed against the company from employees who state the studio has violated the California Equal Pay Act. Each of the five lawsuits cite in-house sexism influencing hiring practices and creating a "bro culture" within the company. In response, according to Kotaku, this past April, Riot filed a forced arbitration for two of the lawsuits. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this move was not received very well by many Riot Games' employees, and many executed a walkout on Monday, May 6 in protest.

More than 150 employees participated in the walkout on Monday, according to CBS News. In a comment to Kotaku, one employee said, "I'm walking out as a symbolic action to signal to leadership that I care about this issue. I hope leadership takes the time to seriously listen to the issues."

Game Workers Unite released a public statement in response to the walkout, writing, "While participating in the first walkout in the game industry may feel scary and uncertain, know that your struggle at Riot does not exist in a vacuum. You are not alone. There exists a long and storied history of people, regular people, fighting fights just like yours in the game, tech, and entertainment industries. Today you build upon that foundation laid by countless workers before you who refused to accept things as they were and built a better world. Today you carry that movement forward."

In response to the walkout, a Riot representative told Kotaku, "While we will not make a change to our policies while in active litigation, last Thursday we announced that we've made the call to pivot our approach. As soon as active litigation is resolved, 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 on potentially expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters. We are working diligently to resolve all active litigation so that we can quickly take steps toward a solution. As we have been for the past week, we will continue to listen to Rioters regarding their thoughts on arbitration and we're thankful for everyone that has taken the time to meet with leadership about this issue."

"It's been eight months since the original [Kotaku] article was released and so far I haven’t seen a single outcome of our diversity and inclusion efforts at Riot," one Riot employee told Kotaku. "I haven't seen a single metric or number to indicate things have improved and I haven't seen a single project get finished."

Another employee told Kotaku, "I think having executives get up for two hours and do the classic, roundabout series of denials helped other Rioters wake up to the fact that this is actually happening here. The impression most Rioters got is that [the executives] do care about it, a bit. They care about being publicly humiliated."

This walkout is the first major protest seen in the game industry since the bulk of Crytek USA quit for being underpaid back in 2014. The gaming landscape of today is very different from previous years, as talk of studio employees unionizing has become a larger focus amongst the many reports of crunch and other poor working conditions within the industry. The shift has put many studios under the microscope, including big names like Fortnite's Epic Games and Mortal Kombat 11's NeatherRealm. In response, numerous teams, such as Apex Legends' Respawn, are sticking to certain development practices in regards to updating their games in order to avoid putting their employees through crunch.

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