In January, the ‘League of Legends’ developer was served with a lawsuit from a former exec assistant alleging violations of the California Labor Code “based on alleged sexual discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.”
Riot Games says that an investigation into sexual harassment and gender discrimination allegations against CEO Nicolo Laurent found no evidence that he acted inappropriately with his former executive assistant.
The Santa Monica-based League of Legends developer was served with a lawsuit from Sharon O’Donnell in January alleging that Riot Games and Laurent created a hostile work environment in violation of the California Labor Code and Fair Employment and Housing Act “based on alleged sexual discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.” The lawsuit remains ongoing, with a status conference set for April 27.
Riot’s Special Committee of the Board of Directors, formed in 2018 to oversee diversity and inclusion, completed its own investigation, meanwhile. “We concluded that there was no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against the plaintiff,” the committee said in a statement. It further reached the conclusion that no action should be taken against Laurent.
“This is not a recommendation we take lightly,” the committee said in its statement. “In cases involving high-ranking executives, we recognize that power dynamics can often give rise to behaviors and biases that infect the experiences of others within the organization in toxic ways. Moreover, in many such cases, reaching a conclusion about these kinds of allegations can be difficult. Most cases of this nature are not black and white; they fall into the grey. However, this was not one of those cases. In this case, we were simply unable to find any evidence that would justify a sanction of any kind against Laurent.”
The committee added that it would open a new investigation “without hesitation and without prejudice” if any additional complaints against Laurent surface.
Laurent, who cooperated with the investigation and was not placed on leave during the process, posted a personal statement on the Riot Games blog underneath the special committee’s findings. “The allegations of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation involving me are not true,” he wrote. “Nothing of that nature, or even remotely close to it, ever happened.”
Laurent acknowledged in his lengthy letter that some people may still have doubts. “Riot is on a journey of learning and growth, so too are all of our leaders, including myself,” he wrote. The veteran Riot exec, who became CEO in 2017, will continue to serve in his position at the company and will address questions from Riot staff during an internal meeting later this week.
This is not the first time Riot Games has been involved in a legal matter of this nature. In 2019, the company settled a class-action lawsuit that alleged discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Last March, the company hired its first chief diversity officer, Angela Roseboro, to address workplace culture.
Elsewhere in the video game community, a number of individuals, many of them women, came forward in mid-2020 with broad claims of sexual harassment, racism and discrimination in the industry. This coordinated effort led to a “Twitch blackout,” which was intended to send a message to the Amazon-owned platform and other gaming companies, urging them to address allegations. In July, French video game company Ubisoft restructured its editorial department in an attempt to “combat toxic behavior” following accusations of harassment and discrimination.