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Riot Games Calls Agency’s Tactics ‘Abusive’ in Court Fight (2)

Aug. 25, 2021, 11:34 PMUpdated: Aug. 26, 2021, 12:49 AM

Riot Games Inc. blasted the tactics of California’s civil rights agency, accusing it of “abusive” behavior in a dispute over whether the video game maker is allowing its employees to cooperate in a probe into alleged workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.

The game maker, a unit of Tencent Holdings Ltd., said the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is distorting the legal record and wasting the resources of both the company and the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Riot Games announced in 2019 that it had reached a class settlement with women who said the company denied them equal pay and promotions, and subjected them to sexual harassment. Riot also said it had reached confidential individual settlements with around 100 women who waived their claims and rights.

DFEH, which conducted an investigation into the company starting in 2018, stepped in to block the class settlement, which it said would undercompensate female employees, and asked for copies of the confidential settlements.

The agency accused Riot of using those settlements to prevent employees from speaking with state regulators, and asked 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 rights to speak about workplace bias.

In an ex parte motion filed in August, DFEH alleged Riot had delayed handing over the contact information for employees receiving the corrective notice.

Riot provided 475 names to the administrator on Aug. 20.

DFEH then sought a court statement that the agency had the right to access the list of former employees, and directly contact them. “DFEH is concerned by the large difference between the numbers,” the agency said, pointing to the 100 or so women involved in the private settlements, and the larger number of notices.

That additional filing is meritless and largely moot, Riot said in a response dated Aug. 23.

“DFEH’s representations are based on a knowing distortion of the record. This misuse of the Court and Riot’s resources must stop, and Riot reserves all rights to seek sanctions for this continued egregious and abusive behavior,” Riot said in its filing.

Riot provided information of all employees — including female, male, and non-binary employees — who signed severance agreements dating back to 2014, the company said. The vast difference in numbers is expected, because, as DFEH itself alleges, Riot has far fewer female employees than male employees, and therefore the majority of recipients of the severance agreements are male, Riot said.

“The only thing ‘concerning’ here is DFEH’s filing itself, which was served at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday and without any effort to meet and confer with Riot’s counsel about the purported discrepancy,” Riot’s filing says.

DFEH declined to comment.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP represents Riot.

The case is McCracken v. Riot Games Inc., Cal. Super. Ct., No. 18STCV03957, 8/23/21.

(Updated to clarify date of filing.)

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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