Riot Games, the video game publisher that produced the popular title League of Legends, said Tuesday it was investigating claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination against its chief executive, Nicolo Laurent.
Mr. Laurent and Riot were sued in Los Angeles County Superior Court in January by Sharon O’Donnell, a former executive assistant to Mr. Laurent. In court documents, Ms. O’Donnell said Mr. Laurent repeatedly made sexually suggestive remarks to her, asked her to work at his house when his wife was not home, and told women who worked for Riot that the way to handle stress related to the coronavirus pandemic was to “have kids.”
“Riot Games is a male-dominated culture,” the lawsuit said. Female employees like Ms. O’Donnell were “discriminated against, harassed and treated as second-class citizens,” it said.
When she refused Mr. Laurent’s advances, Ms. O’Donnell said in the lawsuit, he yelled at her, grew hostile, took away some of her responsibilities and eventually fired her in July.
Ms. O’Donnell “believes that this was because she refused to have sex or an affair with the defendant,” according to the lawsuit, which was first reported on Tuesday by Daily Esports.
Riot disputed Ms. O’Donnell’s claim in a statement, saying she “was dismissed from the company over seven months ago based on multiple well-documented complaints from a variety of people.”
Riot said an outside law firm was conducting the investigation into Mr. Laurent and was being overseen by a committee of the company’s board of directors. Riot said Mr. Laurent was cooperating with the investigation.
Riot, which is owned by the Chinese internet giant Tencent, has grown into one of the world’s most prominent video game companies.
Its flagship League of Legends game, released in 2009, brought in more than $1.8 billion in revenue last year, according to an estimate from the research firm SuperData. And the series of professional competitions Riot has built around the game has attracted tens of millions of fans and turned star gamers into e-sports celebrities who can make millions of dollars.
But Riot has also been under fire for what employees have said is a sexist, toxic workplace. In 2019, it agreed to pay $10 million to the 1,000 women who had worked at the company since 2014 to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming gender discrimination and unequal pay.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which has been investigating Riot since 2018, said last year that the women could be entitled to as much as $400 million, which Riot disputed. It said earlier this month that it was moving forward in court with an effort to seek “class-wide relief” for the women who worked at Riot.