Riot Games workers plan walkout to protest forced arbitration

Workers at Riot Games plan to walk out of the video game developer's Los Angeles headquarters Monday to protest the company's handling of two sexual discrimination lawsuits.

This action, the first of its kind in the video game industry, comes amid a surge in tech worker activism and a growing interest in unionization.

In 2018, Microsoft employees spoke up against providing services to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Amazon workers protested their employers' sales of facial recognition software to law enforcement, and Google employees worldwide walked out to protest the company's handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

The Google walkout led the tech giant to end its practice of forcing employees to settle disputes with the company in private arbitration. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Uber and Lyft also committed to end forced arbitration for sexual misconduct complaints.

The Riot workers have similar demands.

A series of articles late last year exposed a culture of casual sexism and harassment against women at the company, which publishes the massively popular online battle arena game "League of Legends."

In response, the company said it would change its culture and brought in outside consultants, restructured its HR systems, and altered the composition of its board.

In the following months, five current and former employees have filed lawsuits against the company for alleged violations of the California Equal Pay Act and alleged gender-based discrimination, retaliation and harassment.

In April, the company filed motions to force two of the suits into arbitration, rather than a full trial, claiming that the plaintiffs had signed arbitration clauses when hired.

In response, Rioters began organizing the walkout, circulating internal documents with demands to end forced arbitration. The company called an all-hands meeting last week to address the concerns, and announced it would give all new hires the choice to opt out of mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment and assault claims "as soon as current litigation is resolved." The company also said it would discuss giving current employees the same option.

"We know that this resolution will not satisfy all Rioters," the company wrote. "We understand and respect Rioters who choose to protest this decision on Monday, and admire their conviction and willingness to stand up for their beliefs."