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Riot CEO Accused Of Creating Hostile Work Environment In New Lawsuit

Allegations include sexual harassment and wrongful termination.


In January, former Riot executive assistant Sharon O'Donnell filed a lawsuit with the Los Angeles County Superior Court accusing Riot CEO Nicolas Laurent of creating a hostile work environment. The allegations in the suit range from unwanted sexual advances to demeaning remarks about O'Donnell's femininity and tone. Additionally, the filing alleges that O'Donnell was stripped of work duties and eventually terminated in 2020 after reporting Laurent because she didn't reciprocate his advances.

Riot denied the nature of O'Donnell's termination in a statement to the Washington Post: "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." The statement also says that Riot has a special committee of its board of directors conducting an investigation with the help of an outside law firm to ensure impartiality and transparency.

In a January 7 filing obtained by the Washington Post, O'Donnell alleges that Laurent invited her to travel and work from home alone with him and directed several sexual comments at her, including one about how his underwear fit. According to the filing, Laurent asked O'Donnell if she could "handle him when they were alone at his house."

The lawsuit alleges that Laurent became angry and hostile after O'Donnell turned down his advances, limiting her workplace duties until she was eventually terminated. "[O'Donnell] believes that by this conduct Laurent explicitly and implicitly conditioned job benefits and the absence of job detriments on [O'Donnell's] acceptance of sexual conduct," O'Donnell's attorney Michael Baltaxe wrote in the filing. O'Donnell's attorneys have not yet responded to the Washington Post's request for comment.

Riot made headlines in 2018 after a Kotaku report detailed a culture of sexism within the company. This produced a class action gender discrimination lawsuit and two separate investigations by California regulators. In 2020, Laurent published an open letter to other leaders in the games industry reflecting on Riot's internal audit and the steps the company took to improve its culture. This was the same year O'Donnell was terminated from the company. According to the filing, Laurent's harassment was consistent from when she was hired to when she was terminated.

In a statement to the Washington Post, a Riot spokesperson said: "Our CEO has pledged his full cooperation and support during this process, and we're committed to ensuring that all claims are thoroughly explored and appropriately resolved."

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