Riot Games CEO faces sexual harassment allegations

©Agence France-Presse

A screenshot from League of Legends, a popular title from Riot Games, whose CEO is accused in a lawsuit of sexual harassment

San Francisco (AFP) - League of Legends maker Riot Games said Wednesday it had hired an independent team to review allegations of sexual harassment against its top executive, in the latest episode highlighting a troubled workplace culture in the video game industry.

Riot chief executive Nicolas Laurent is accused in a California lawsuit of retaliating against his assistant, Sharon O'Donnell, after she refused what she took as an invitation for a sexual liaison.

"Female employees are discriminated against, harassed and treated as second class citizens," contended the suit filed against Laurent and Riot last month in Los Angeles, where the company is based.

Riot told AFP that its board of directors is overseeing an investigation of the matter by an outside law firm, and Laurent has pledged to cooperate.

"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," the company said in response to an AFP inquiry.

"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."

O'Donnell contended in the suit that she faced sexual harassment and a hostile work environment after being hired as Laurent's executive assistant in October of 2017.

Claims in the legal filing include Laurent saying that his wife was jealous of beautiful women and that he talked about his underwear size.

Laurent, who is French, purportedly asked O'Donnell if she could handle him if they were alone together, and invited her to join him at his home while his family was away, according to the suit.

O'Donnell said in the filing that job duties were taken away from her and she was eventually fired last year after rejecting what she saw as sexual advances by Laurent.

Riot countered that O'Donnell was terminated from her job after more than a dozen complaints by work colleagues and outside partners, and "any suggestion otherwise is simply false."

The incident is the latest highlighting a troubled workplace in the industry and follows a review launched last year by Ubisoft, one of the world's largest video game companies, into claims of sexual assault and harassment levelled against some of its employees.