It’s been a hard month for California video game mega-corporations. It’s not just Activision Blizzard that’s being investigated regarding workers’ rights violations and harassment. Riot Games, maker of League of Legends, is also being targeted by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Specifically, the DFEH is taking action to protect workers of the company Riot Games from retaliation. The Department has requested that the Los Angeles Superior Court order Riot Games to send a notice to its workers informing them that they have the right to speak to DFEH without the risk of retaliation.
This is another step by the state government to protect workers’ rights. It’s an excellent sign for individuals, but only if they understand how to take advantage of the protections. Keep reading to learn about how the DFEH will protect Riot Games’ staff from retaliation and how you can fight back if you’ve suffered from it yourself.
The Investigation into Riot Games
The DFEH has been investigating Riot Games since 2018, after one of the gaming industry’s first and most visible worker walkouts. The investigation covers allegations of unsafe and hostile workplace conditions, including sexual harassment unaddressed by the company leadership and forced excessive hours. However, the investigation has been moving extremely slowly, and the Department has made it clear that it believes the cause to be threats of retaliation by the company.
Retaliation is a broad term. It covers any action a company takes against an employee for complying with the law or refusing to take unlawful activity. For example, if a business fires, demotes, or blacklists an employee for talking to the DFEH about an investigation, it has engaged in retaliation.
Other kinds of retaliation include forcing someone to quit, providing a hostile workplace, or cutting hours. While it’s unclear what specific actions Riot Games staff are afraid of, it’s still enough to make the DFEH take action.
How the DFEH Is Protecting Riot Games Workers
In June, the Department filed a request to compel the company to inform its staff that all workers have the right to speak with the DFEH, and the Court agreed. However, this notice had not been sent out by August, so the DFEH has again taken to the courts to compel the company to send it out or face significant fines.
Furthermore, the DFEH has shown itself to be willing to take action on behalf of individual workers. In coordination with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the department filed lawsuits on behalf of Riot employees at the end of 2020. Significantly, the DFEH is running a class action lawsuit on behalf of Riot employees who have experienced gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. Should any workers face additional reprisals for participating in the investigation, the DFEH has made it clear that it will fight on their behalf.
General Retaliation Protections in California
The DFEH is far from the only agency in California dedicated to helping people fight back against unfair hiring and employment practices. The California Labor Code contains multiple laws that specifically protect employees from retaliation by their employers. These laws include:
- Labor Code section 96(k): The Labor Commissioner can be assigned claims for loss of wages due to employer retaliation against lawful employee conduct that takes place off-premises and during non-working hours.
- Labor Code section 98.6: Protects employees who file complaints with the Labor Commissioner regarding workplace conditions and unpaid wages, and other rights protected by the Labor Code.
- Labor Code sections 230: Protects employees who take time off from work for legal reasons, because they were the victim of a crime, or because they’re in the armed forces or emergency response personnel.
- Labor Code sections 232: Protects employees who face retaliation for discussing wages and working conditions.
- Labor Code section 233: Protects employees who take their accrued and available sick leave.
- Labor Code section 244: Protects employees from retaliation for exercising their rights by reporting immigration status.
- Labor Code section 432.6: Prevents employers from forcing employees to waive their rights or lose employment or benefits.
If your employer has violated any of these regulations, then they’ve retaliated against you. If so, you may have a case to sue them for lost wages and other damages.
Fighting Back Against Retaliation
If you’ve suffered retaliation in the workplace, you can and should take action. You deserve to maintain your job, your hours, and your benefits. Fighting back can help you recover damages from your employer, including back pay, hiring or reinstatement at your job, and reasonable accommodations. You need to take the correct steps to make your case, however. Here’s what you need to prove:
You took part in a protected activity or reported illegal activity. For example, you need to prove that you took accrued sick leave or reported someone at your employer for harassment.
Your employer took adverse action against you. Your employer fired you, demoted you, cut your hours, or otherwise created a hostile work environment.
The adverse action was linked to the activity you performed. This is the difficult step. You need to prove that the action your employer took was directly related to your protected action. If your employer fires you for being late to work instead of reporting illegal activity, that’s technically legal. You will need to show that your employer actively retaliated against you.
If you believe you can prove all three elements of retaliation, then you can start fighting back.
You Can Fight Against Unfair Employment Practices and Retaliation
If you work in California, then you’re protected by the California Labor Code. You have the right to discuss your wages, take sick leave when you need it, and even sue your employer without losing your job or benefits. If your employer has retaliated against you for exercising protected rights, then you can and should fight back.
Schedule your consultation with a worker’s rights attorney today. You can discuss your situation and begin to build your case against your employer. You don’t have to take retaliation lying down. Learn from the Riot Games staff and stand up to fight for your income with the best legal assistance available.