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Riot Games investigating CEO following gender discrimination lawsuit

Executive assistant alleges her boss propositioned and exploited her before firing her in 2020

League of Legends – 2020 Worlds: Media-Day
Nicolo Laurent, the chief executive of Riot Games, at a League of Legends World Finals event in October 2020. A lawsuit alleges Laurent propositioned his executive assistant and wrongfully terminated her last summer.
Photo: Lintao Zhang/Riot Games via Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Riot Games, makers of League of Legends and Valorant, has begun an internal investigation of its CEO in light of a civil lawsuit, filed by a former employee and alleging wrongful termination and gender discrimination.

Riot’s Board of Directors has hired an outside law firm to examine CEO Nicolo Laurent, who joined the company in 2009 and has been its CEO since 2017. A lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in early January by former executive assistant Sharon O’Donnell, alleges Laurent propositioned her then had her fired after she reported it to Riot’s human resources department. Gaming news website Daily Esports first reported the case on Tuesday.

In a statement, Riot Games disputed O’Donnell’s wrongful termination allegation.

“One subject we can address immediately is the plaintiff’s claim about their separation from Riot,” the company told Polygon. “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.”

Riot’s statement says that Laurent is cooperating with the investigation and supporting the board’s investigation.

O’Donnell’s lawsuit said Laurent invited her to travel with him and work from his home — pointedly mentioning that his wife would not be there. O’Donnell’s suit says Laurent asked her if she “could handle him when they were alone at his house.”

Riot Games was sued in 2018 by workers alleging gender discrimination and harassment, following an investigative report by Kotaku on Riot’s workplace culture and treatment of women. The class action complaint ended in late 2019 with a $10 million settlement. The case alleged a “men-first” “bro-culture” inside the company; Riot acknowledged the complaints and developed an internal diversity and inclusion initiative to address its cultural shortcomings.

A Riot Games spokesperson told Polygon that the company takes “all allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously,” and that it would take action “against anyone who is found to have violated our policies.”

O’Donnell’s lawsuit also alleges that she worked unpaid additional hours, in violation of California state labor law, and that Laurent was aware of this.

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