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Women Suing Riot Games Criticize Agency Intervening in Bias Suit

Sept. 15, 2021, 2:52 AM

Women suing Riot Games Inc., a unit of Tencent Holdings Ltd., for harassment and pay discrimination accused California regulators of attempting to remove one of the plaintiffs from the litigation, part of what they allege is a broader effort by the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing to take control of the outcome of the class action.

A group of plaintiffs from the class said the move to remove one of the women from the action, by questioning her standing, was “disturbing,” and accused the agency of seeking to gain “unfettered control over the case’s process and outcome.”

The filing is the latest development in a contentious legal fight involving Riot Games, female video game industry workers alleging harassment and discrimination at the company, and California’s chief civil rights enforcer.

The DFEH, which conducted an investigation into the company starting in 2018, stepped in to block a class settlement with alleged victims in 2019, claiming that the terms of the proposed agreement grossly undercompensated the plaintiffs.

The agency and Riot Games have continued to clash in court, with DFEH later asking the Los Angeles Superior Court to order that a Corrective Notice be sent to employees who had signed settlement or severance agreements, informing them of their right to speak to the agency about workplace bias.

DFEH filed an emergency order with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Sept. 10, seeking to block any settlement conferences, requests for settlement approval, or dismissal of the case.

Plaintiffs counsel said the agency hasn’t been excluded from settlement discussions, nor has a settlement for approval been submitted.

“If that day comes, DFEH can file all the objections it wants, and this court will be the arbiter of whether any such settlement is fair and reasonable. But until then, DFEH should not be permitted to interfere with the putative class action, particularly through frivolous ex parte motions,” the plaintiffs said in their filing on Sept. 10.

The filing also accuses the agency of trying to “dissuade the women working at Activision/Blizzard from speaking with private counsel.” The DFEH filed suit in July against Activision Blizzard Inc., another video game maker, accusing the company of workplace harassment and bias.

Pay Data

On Monday, the state agency separately sought an order compelling Riot to produce employment data including compensation history, gender, race, education, and dates of employment, among other information. That data is commonly used in the analysis of discrimination allegations, but Riot’s production of documents has been “selective and incomplete,” the agency alleged.

The agency previously claimed Riot had delayed handing over copies of settlement agreements it signed with over 100 individual class members, and contact information for those employees receiving the corrective notice.

The League of Legends game maker pointed to comments blasting the agency’s tactics in August, saying it is distorting the legal record and wasting the resources of both the company and the trial court.

The DFEH motion asks the court to order a search of electronically served information to be conducted by an independent consultant, and to order Riot to produce documents responsive to the agency’s requests as well as a detailed privilege log.

DFEH did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represents Riot.

The case is McCracken v. Riot Games, Cal. Super. Ct., No. 18STCV03957, 9/14/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maeve Allsup in San Francisco at mallsup@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

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