California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed a request for enforcement of its anti-retaliation protections to a U.S. District Court in California. The case challenges a Riot Games policy that prohibits employees from talking to the DFEH or other law enforcement authorities about violations of the state’s employment laws.
California’s Division of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is moving forward with a new enforcement and outreach campaign designed to protect the identities of workers who engage in state wage and hour and safety and health investigations.
The state of California has filed a complaint against Riot Games, alleging that the company retaliated against employees who cooperated with an investigation into alleged workplace harassment. The complaint follows a recent decision from a federal court judge in California, who barred the company from undoing the employment agreements of a group of employees who helped an outside investigator with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) investigate a complaint of discrimination filed against Riot by a former employee.
Blizzard isn’t the only gaming studio facing scrutiny from California regulators: we’ve been following a similar situation at League of Legends publisher Riot Games since 2018, when Kotaku’s exposé of working conditions was met with an employee walkout, multiple lawsuits, and a slap on the wrist for the company VP who repeatedly grabbed subordinates’ balls. At the urging of none other than the California DFEH and DLSE, the plaintiffs in one class-action lawsuit withdrew their agreement to Riot’s $10 million settlement offer in 2020; the case went back to court, but the judge sent it to arbitration, with the exception of one plaintiff who wasn’t bound by an arbitration clause and was given leave to pursue her suit. Separate enforcement actions were also filed against the business by the DFEH and the DLSE.
We’re going through everything again since Riot is in the news again this week for the same controversy. When the California DFEH filed its own suit in the middle of all the accusations in 2019, it did so specifically because it claimed Riot wasn’t fully cooperating with its investigation – that it had “refused to provide the Department with adequate information for DFEH to analyze whether women are paid less than men at the company,” as required by law.
“Riot informed Kotaku that it is collaborating in good faith,” we observed at the time, “though this is a business that also believed unpaid leave over Christmas was the proper penalty for a VP who repeatedly groped staff members’ balls.” No, we’re not going to stop pointing it out.
In any case, according to Gamasutra, the California DFEH is still looking into whether Riot is obstructing the inquiry. It filed a lawsuit earlier this summer to force Riot to cease interfering with workers’ ability to talk to government investigators, which clearly Riot’s lawyers are aware is illegal.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), California’s civil rights agency, has requested the Los Angeles Superior Court to force Riot Games Inc. to comply with the Court’s June 4, 2021 ruling ordering the business to deliver a notice to its employees regarding their rights to talk with DFEH. “The notice will inform workers of their right to speak freely with the government about illegal workplace practices and to participate in DFEH’s pending action without fear of retaliation, regardless of non-disparagement and non-disclosure terms in their settlement agreements,” according to the notice.
California also expresses its worries about riot retribution and the slowness with which it has complied in recent years.
“In 2019, more than a year after the government launched an investigation into Riot Games for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and sexual assault, the company announced it had reached secret settlement agreements with approximately 100 women who waived their claims and rights without being informed of the government’s actions. The DFEH spent the next 18 months looking for the secret settlement agreements. Riot was ordered by the court to hand them up to the government in January 2021, however Riot didn’t do it until April 2021. DFEH quickly filed for relief from the Court, alarmed by wording in Riot’s settlement and separation agreements that indicated workers could not freely and honestly talk with the government about sexual harassment and other breaches and seek remedy from the government’s actions. Riot was required by the court to issue the remedial notice, but Riot has postponed it for two months. Workers are told that they can “freely cooperate, participate, and obtain potential relief, if awarded,” in DFEH’s pending action, and that “Riot Games cannot retaliate or take any adverse action against [them] for speaking with DFEH, participating in DFEH’s pending action, or obtaining potential relief in such action,” according to the court-ordered notice. Furthermore, “Riot Games cannot require [any worker] to notify the company or obtain permission before speaking with DFEH,” and “it is unlawful for [any] employer to retaliate against [workers] for speaking to the government or otherwise voluntarily participating or cooperating in government proceedings.”
Riot informed Gamasutra that it hasn’t been retaliating or preventing current or past workers from speaking out, but this is a business that hired a union-busting agency in response to a labor strike, so suspicion is justified.
More on the Riot Games debacle can be found here.
It’s a relatively common scenario: a developer asks Riot Games to investigate an incident at their company, and the company throws a spanner into the works, blaming the employee who was asked to cooperate in their investigation.. Read more about dfeh source of income and let us know what you think.
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