This week, Riot Games has announced the punishment that COO Scott Gelb will be facing after several employees claimed that he has committed numerous inappropriate acts such as touching the private areas of (male) subordinates. However, many feel that the punishment—which entails two months of unpaid suspension and training—is nowhere near satisfactory.
An investigation conducted by Kotaku, which lasted for 8 months and involved interviews with dozens of Riot employees both current and former, revealed that the company has been condoning a culture of sexism. The company has allegedly had a history of passing up qualified female employees for promotions, demanding higher from women, and bolstering crude “male humor”.
One name was constantly repeated throughout the interviews: Scott Gelb, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Many employees alleged that Gelb participated on multiple occasions in improper activities such as flicking or slapping others’ testicles, farting on employees or jokingly humping them. A couple of interviewees said that these kinds of actions happened so frequently that they had become a common sight in the office. Some believed that this so-called comedy of Gelb paved the way for others to follow him and created a fraternity mindset that, according to sources, put women at a disadvantage.
In response to the investigation, Riot gave several statements promising to right the reported wrongs. It did, in fact, investigate Gelb. On Monday, the company’s CEO Nicolo Laurent sent an email to employees announcing that after an investigation carried by law firm Seyfarth Shaw with supervision from Riot’s Board of Directors, Gelb will still remain. However, he will be suspended for two months and put on training.
Before giving details about Gelb’s punishment, Laurent also claimed that many of the rumors regarding Gelb, both within the company and on other channels, are not true. However, when asked by Kotaku to clarify which specific allegations were incorrect, a representative from Riot refused to give any further comment.
Laurent went on to say later in his e-mail that some of the claims regarding Gelb’s unprofessional and inappropriate behavior in the workplace, especially in the early days of the company, were indeed proven to be true, and these conducts were unacceptable. However, he said at the end that since Gelb had shown willingness to redeem himself, he would give the COO his full support, and would leverage him upon his return next year. “I hope you will join me,” Laurent concluded.
This response from Riot’s top executives was not well received by its employees. One calls this a “slap on the wrist” and a disrespect to people harmed by Gelb’s behavior. Another thinks that the leaders of Riot prioritize their “awful friends” more than defending the vulnerable employees. Yet says the COO should be demoted, if not straight up fired.
Even though Riot Games appears to be determined to remove the root of its discriminatory problem, its quest has definitely hit some rocks in instances such as this one.