In 2014, Riot Games executive assistant at the time, Melanie McCracken, began to notice that her supervisor, Jin Oh, did not appear to be hiring women for senior leadership positions. Women are generally brought in as assistants, he said in 2018 civil complaints alleges widespread gender discrimination in League of Legends publisher. Oh, an executive at the company, “claimed that she would ‘find it strange to have a man’ in such a role,” according to the complaint. It’s part of a pattern, he says, of Oh harming women based on their gender or gender.
McCracken began looking for a new job at Riot in September 2014 – ideally one that has higher mobility. As he tries to escape, McCracken begins to feel that Oh is creating a hostile work environment. According to the complaint, he went to human resources to report allegations of retaliation and discrimination. Shortly thereafter, McCracken met with Oh to discuss HR discussions, which he believed were confidential.
McCracken switched from Riot international territory to North America in March 2015. Oh finally landed there too, as the new interim head. Upon his arrival, McCracken in 2016 “was given a five month countdown to find a new position or was ‘fired’,” the complaint reads. She found him, in the Internal Communications division, and Oh left Riot later that year. (HR McCracken representative spoke with leaving the company in 2019.)
But in 2018, Riot chief executive Nicolo Laurent rehired Oh. The HR representative also rejoined the company, and is now directing human resources for Oh’s department. Oh now has a very long term: president of Riot esports, marketing, publishing operations, and international offices. None of his direct reports, except for his executive assistants, were women. A spokeswoman for Riot Games said in a statement that “many women of senior level” worked at the publishing organization that Oh led.
Over the past two years, several women, most recently the former executive assistant to CEO of Riot Nicolo Laurent, Sharon O’Donnell, have stepped forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination and harassment at the company. Many of the court’s filings – including one previously unreported by former Riot employees from December – underline that under Laurent’s watch, several executives remain hired at Riot despite being repeatedly accused of improperity.
McCracken is one of eight women named in a potential class action lawsuit filed against Riot Games on charges of widespread gender discrimination. (McCracken took the settlement and is no longer part of the lawsuit. The others, except for one, have been transferred to arbitration due to clauses signed at work.) The lawsuit follows 2018 My city report where dozens of current and former employees describe a work environment in which women face additional oversight in the hiring process, receive fewer opportunities for advancement than men, are routinely discussed in meetings, and are under compensation compared to men in similar positions with similar qualifications.
Riot’s “boys club” ethos transcends employment practices. Sources interviewed by My city said they received unsolicited or emailed images of male genitalia or lists that depicted a colleague’s sexual interest in them. Scott Gelb, Riot Games chief operating officer – who remains at the company after a brief suspension and sensitivity training – would pick up male employees’ genitals, apparently as a joke, and fart people’s faces, sources said. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement are also investigating allegations of widespread gender discrimination at the Riot Games.
Riot has attempted to clean up problematic ranks, offer sensitivity training, and implement more structured hiring practices. Riot contracted Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei, who is Uber brought to remedy an allegedly sexist culture, and create a head of diversity within the company. While lower and mid-level employees are feeling the effects of the cultural change, two sources told WIRED that Riot’s top leadership has closed the rankings around some of the company’s most problematic employees, who remain at the helm of the gaming company of 2,500 people. Laurent, they say, has gone to great lengths to retain and protect this employee.