The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) just last month filed an enforcement action in Los Angeles Superior Court against Riot Games, Inc. (“Riot Games”) to compel compliance with its ongoing investigation into allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and retaliation. While the identified claims are broad, the primary thrust appears to be the contention that female employees at Riot Games are paid less than their male counterparts.
According to the DFEH, Riot Games has stonewalled its investigative efforts since October 2018. More specifically, the Petition to Compel Compliance (“Petition”) alleges that Riot Games has not adequately responded to discovery requests seeking employee data, including the gender, job title, job classification, compensation, and performance rankings, of Riot Games’ employees to shed light on the unequal pay allegations.
Like all employers receiving discovery requests from the DFEH, Riot Games may have a host of well-founded objections to the requests (e.g., the violation of third-party privacy rights, the overbroad scope of the requests, etc.). Riot Games, however, has yet to respond to the Petition or the DFEH’s more recent request for an order to show cause and to set a hearing date. Thus, at this time, Riot Games’ position is unknown.
While the action is in its infancy, as the case develops, it will be interesting to see how the Court responds to the DFEH’s attempts to compel cooperation from Riot Games, especially with regard to the equal pay allegations.
With equal pay receiving renewed national attention in connection with the U.S. Women’s National Team’s historic fourth World Cup title, employers may see an uptick of government investigations and civil complaints alleging wage discrimination. Therefore, employers should review their hiring, promotion, and compensation practices to ensure compliance with state and federal employment laws.