The sexual harassment suit against Riot Games has respawned and is now, potentially, able to inflict 40 times more damage on the video game maker.
Riot and current and former female employees agreed in August 2019 to settle the suit.
The agreement called for the $1.5 billion dollar company (2019 revenue) to settle the class-action suit by paying out $10 million to about 1,000 employees who self-identify as female.
But that settlement has now been challenged, and not by either Riot or the women in the class that alleged sexual harassment.
Wage discrepancies at issue
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DEFH) has filed its own analysis of the suit and says that female employees of Riot Games could be entitled to “over $400 million.”
The agency says the amount is justified because of the wage differential between men and women at the company, which increased the amount of back pay they should receive.
The agency criticized the plaintiff’s legal team, alleging procedural errors and questioning why the Rosen Saba law firm didn’t pursue discovery that might have provided support for a higher payout to its clients.
DEFH also said that its own investigation of the work environment at Riot raised the question of whether the non-monetary terms of the sexual harassment settlement are sufficient. The agency states in its filing that the settlement includes “no enforceable changes to employment policies, at a company alleged to be rife with sexism.”
Additional labor violations?
Another state agency, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, raised similar objections in a December 2019 filing, telling the court that the settlement immunized Riot for labor law violations separate from the ones alleged in the class action suit.
Riot spokesman Joe Hixson told The Los Angeles Times, “We are particularly dismayed that the filing downplays and ignores the efforts we have made with respect to diversity, inclusion, and culture over the past 18 months. We look forward to making our case to the Court.”
“We worked hard to negotiate with the lawyer representing the class to reach an agreement that we collectively believe is fair for the class members,” said Riot spokesperson Joe Hixson in a written statement to the Times. “Now DFEH is trying to disrupt that agreement in a legal filing that is filled with inaccuracies and false allegations.
Court to decide this month
It’s not clear whether either objection will impact the final settlement still awaiting approval from the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The court is scheduled to decide on Jan. 31 if the labor agency has standing to intervene in the case and examine additional potential labor law violations at Riot and on Feb. 3 will announce whether it will consider the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s objections or allow the proposed $10 million settlement to go forward.