Former Riot Games Employees Sues CEO for Sexual Harassment

Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent is accused of sexual harassment in a recent lawsuit.
Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent is accused of sexual harassment in a recent lawsuit. / ESPAT Media/Getty Images

Former Riot Games executive assistant Sharon O'Donnell filed a lawsuit against Riot Games and its CEO, Nicolo Laurent, last month claiming Laurent sexually harassed her, discriminated against her, and then retaliated against her when she brought her complaints to human resources.

O'Donnell served as Laurent's executive assistant starting in October 2017 until the company fired her in July 2020. She says Laurent began harassing near the start of her time at Riot and persisted until her termination.

The suit, obtained by Vice, cites several specific instances, including Laurent asking O'Donnell not to tell his wife how close they were, and telling O'Donnell to "cum" over to his house while his wife was away. She also says Laurent both explicitly and implicitly predicated job benefits on her acceptance of sexual conduct.

O'Donnell says after she refused Laurent's invitation to his house he became more hostile and took away several of her job duties. When she brought a complaint to HR, she says she received more criticism rather than a resolution.

O'Donnell is also suing Riot for failing to prevent the harassment, for failing to pay wages in a timely manner, and failing to provide legally mandated rest and meal breaks.

Riot Games says a special committee of the company's board of directors will oversee an independent law firm's investigation into the situation. It also says O'Donnell was "dismissed from the company over seven months ago following over a dozen complaints from both employees and external partners."

Laurent remains working in his normal capacity, Riot Games told Vice.

O'Donnell's lawsuit describes the same so-called bro culture characterized in 2018 reporting about the company's inner workings. Riot Games is currently working to improve that culture internally by hiring its first chief diversity officer, but the company remains embroiled in a class-action lawsuit filed by then-current and former employees alleging gender discrimination.

Riot Games alleged the plaintiffs in the suit were doing so illegally, as their contracts included forced arbitration agreements. Employees staged a walkout in 2019 to protest the forced arbitration clauses. Riot tried to settle the lawsuit with a $10 million damages payment, but the settlement was withdrawn after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Department of Labor Standards & Enforcement ruled the amount too low.

Riot Games moved to return the lawsuit to arbitration last month, prompting the DFEH and DLSE to issue a joint statement saying the company had broken the law in discriminating against women employees. The agencies will proceed with enforcement action in court against the company.

The group Riot Workers United, a collective of Riot employees advocating for change in the workplace, voiced its support for O'Donnell Tuesday.

"Inappropriate relations combined with the threat of power is a harm inherent to any company where leaders are not held accountable," reads the group's statement. "Historically, Riot is a company where leaders have not been held accountable."

"Those in positions of power at Riot would do well to recognize that their positions are only as stable as the workforce underneath them."