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Former assistant to Riot CEO suing company over alleged harassment

Former assistant to Riot CEO suing company over alleged harassment

Riot Games is once again being sued, this time by a former executive assistant to its CEO Nicolo Laurent.

As spotted by Vice, Sharon O'Donnell has alleged in a complaint filed in January with the Superior Court for the State of California in Los Angeles County that she was fired from her position after he sexually harassed her. She claims a pattern of harassment starting soon after she was hired in October 2017 that included Laurent telling her to be "more feminine" and discussing his underwear and staring at her "in a sexual fashion" while doing so.

The CEO also allegedly invited O'Donnell to come over to his home while his family was away, in name to work, but with the implication that he wanted to sleep with her.

After she refused, O'Donnell claims that her duties were taken away before she was fired in July 2020. She claims this was wrongful termination.

O'Donnell is seeking damages on nine different complaints, including hostile environment, sexual discrimination, failure to prevent harassment and failure to pay wages.

“Shortly after Plaintiff was hired the Defendant Laurent began a pattern of harassing Plaintiff based on her sex or gender. This continued until the end of her employment," the lawsuit says.

Riot has denied O'Donnell's claims about her dismissal, telling GamesIndustry.biz that they are false and that her role was terminated due to complaints from "a variety of people." Laurent is apparently carrying on in his duties while an internal investigation takes place.

"Over the past several years, workplace culture has been one of our top priorities and we're proud of the steps we've taken to make Riot Games a great place to work. Core to giving Rioters confidence in our commitment to culture transformation is taking all allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously, thoroughly investigating claims, and taking action against anyone who is found to have violated our policies," a spokesperson said.

"In this case, because some of the claims relate to an executive leader, a special committee of our Board of Directors is overseeing the investigation, which is being conducted by an outside law firm. Our CEO has pledged his full cooperation and support during this process, and we're committed to ensuring that all claims are thoroughly explored and appropriately resolved."

This, of course, comes in the wake of a damning exposé about Riot's working culture at the end of 2018, which paints it as toxic and generally sexist. The company has made some effort to get away from this image, hiring a chief diversity office in Angela Roseboro, as well as bringing Frances Frei on board to help kick the company into shape, having previously done the same at Uber.

At the end of 2019, Riot was told to pay $10 million to around 1,000 members of female staff who were part of a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination at the studio. At the start of last year, however, the state of California intervened, saying that the League of Legends maker should be paying out $400 million. Riot has contested this figure.


PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site PCGamesInsider.biz. In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for GamesIndustry.biz, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.

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