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Riot Games CEO accused of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in new lawsuit

Riot says wrongful termination claims “simply false”.

League of Legends developer Riot Games continues to be in the news for all the wrong reasons, this time thanks to a new lawsuit accusing CEO Nicolo Laurent of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and wrongful termination.

The lawsuit, as reported by the Washington Post, was filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court in January by former Riot executive assistant Sharon O’Donnell, who joined the company in 2017 and was fired last July.

In the suit, O’Donnell claims Laurent subjected her to numerous sexual comments, inviting her to travel with him and to work from his home when his wife was away, asking if she “could handle him when they were alone at his house”. When O’Donnell declined, Laurent is alleged to have become hostile, limiting her workplace responsibilities and eventually having her fired after she reported the incident to Riot’s HR department.

According to the filing, “[O’Donnell] believes that by this conduct Laurent explicitly and implicitly conditioned job benefits and the absence of job detriments on [her] acceptance of sexual conduct.” Laurent is also alleged to have made demeaning comments focussing on O’Donnell’s gender, criticising her “abusive tone” and saying she should be “more feminine.”

In a statement provided to media outlets in response to the lawsuit, Riot wrote, “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”.

However, the company says it has established a special committee of its board of directors to oversee an investigation – conducted by an outside law firm – into the allegations. It also says Laurent has “pledged his full cooperation and support during this process, and [the company is] committed to ensuring that all claims are thoroughly explored and appropriately resolved.”

“Core to giving Rioters confidence in our commitment to culture transformation is taking all allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously, thoroughly investigating claims and taking action against anyone who is found to have violated our policies”, said Riot.

O’Donnell’s filing follows the news late last month that Riot was once again attempting to force plaintiffs in a long-running gender discrimination lawsuit through individual arbitration after one state agency claimed the women involved could be entitled to over $400m (£291.7m).

That lawsuit was filed in the wake of a 2018 Kotaku report into Riot’s toxic workplace culture, exposing allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment within the company.

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