A top video game executive accused of farting on subordinates and hitting their genitals as a joke has been suspended without pay, but some employees want him gone entirely
- League of Legends developer Riot Games has suspended Chief Operating Officer Scott Gelb for two months without pay following reports of sexual misconduct in the workplace and a pending lawsuit against the company.
- Gelb has been accused of repeatedly touching his employees genitals in the workplace and farting in their faces as a joke.
- In November, two women filed a class action lawsuit against the company, claiming that the "bro culture" that dominated Riot's work environment negatively impacted their careers.
League of Legends developer Riot Games has acknowledged Chief Operating Officer Scott Gelb's role in upholding the culture of toxic masculinity that has made the company the target of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Reports of Riot's "bro culture" first surfaced in August, detailing multiple instances of sexual misconduct and gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Gelb has been specifically accused of repeatedly farting on fellow employees, humping them, and hitting their testicles as a part of a running workplace gag.
When the reports first surfaced Riot apologized for harboring a work environment that was unwelcoming to women and pledged to conduct an internal review and make necessary changes to the company culture. Now three months into its own "cultural transformation timeline," Riot has informed employees that Gelb will be suspended without pay for his behavior and will undergo training before returning to the company.Riot's "League of Legends" is one of the most popular games ever and the most watched esport on the planet. The company has 2,500 employees, and is 80 percent male, according to Kotaku. Riot is a subsidary of Chinese conglomerate Tencent, the world's largest video game publisher.
In an internal email first obtained by Kotaku and later published in full by Variety, Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent said the decision to suspend but ultimately retain Gelb was made following a joint investigation by a Board of Directors committee and law firm Seyfarth Shaw. Riot offered the following when asked for a public statement:
"After carefully reviewing and considering the findings, the Special Committee of Riot's Board of Directors determined that a two-month, unpaid leave of absence, along with training, was the appropriate action given the allegations that were substantiated. We can also confirm that many of the rumors circulating about Scott within the company, the media, and other channels were actually not true."
The email and statement don't mention which rumors were false, nor do they specify the behavior Gelb was being suspended for, though it was described as inappropriate, unprofessional, and unacceptable.
Read more: The company behind one of the biggest video games in the world was just slammed with a lawsuit alleging its 'bro-culture' created a sexist workplace where women were rated on their 'hotness,' told that 'no doesn't necessarily mean no,' and shown unsolicited photos of male genitalia"
Laurent went on to ask Riot employees to join him in uplifting Gelb as a leader upon his return, commending his fellow executive's choice to seek "redemption" rather than choosing to leave the company. He said Gelb would "help make Riot a more diverse and inclusive organization.""Scott could have avoided owning his past and his consequences," Laurent said in the email. "He could have left Riot. Scott chose ownership and redemption. I will root for him, will support him through this journey, and will leverage him as a great leader when he returns next year. I hope you will join me."
'A slap on the wrist'
Kotaku spoke to a number of current Riot employees who are frustrated with the company's decision to retain Gelb. Though the staff members chose to remain anonymous to avoid backlash, at least one person likened the two month suspension as 'a tiny slap on the wrist,' while another said the decision to keep Gelb was disrespectful to employees that were impacted by his behavior. In the August statement apologizing for the company's toxic work environment, Riot claimed that it was willing to remove employees and make large scale changes as a part of its internal investigation.
"No one and nothing is sacred," the company's blog post read "We are prepared to make big changes and have begun taking action against specific cases, including removal of Rioters, though we aren't likely to get into those details publicly on a case-by-case basis for legal and privacy reasons."
Riot remains committed to protecting individual employees during the investigation process but Laurent said Gelb's case was an exception due to his high visibility role within the company.
As Riot works to redefine its culture internally, the company is also facing a legal challenge on the basis of gender discrimination. In November, two female Riot employees, one former and one current, filed a class action suit alleging that the company's "bro culture" had negatively impacted their careers. Other Riot employees are accused of sending unsolicited pictures of their genitalia and maintaining a list of the hottest employees. The lawsuit claims that male Riot employees used the word "dick" 500 times in the workplace over the span of a month.
Riot's "cultural transformation timeline" continues through April 2019, and at least some of that time will need to be spent reassuring employees that the company is truly committed to change.