The CEO of Riot Games is being investigated after a lawsuit accused him of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment


"League of Legends" publisher Riot Games is investigating its own CEO after a former employee accused the company of "wrongfully terminat[ing]" her employment after she complained about alleged sexual advances he made towards her.

Sharon O'Donnell worked as an executive assistant for the video games developer from October 2017 to July 2020. She said she was subject to sexual harassment from CEO Nicolo Laurent throughout her employment, according to a lawsuit filed against the company January.

The board of the California-based company has hired a third-party law firm to investigate Laurent, a Riot Games spokesperson told The Verge.

The company "is taking all allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously, thoroughly investigating claims, and taking action against anyone who is found to have violated our policies," it told the publication.

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The lawsuit claims Laurent invited O'Donnell to visit him at his house when his wife wasn't there, and made sexual comments towards her.

When she refused, Laurent retaliated by becoming hostile towards her and limiting her workplace responsibilities, O'Donnell's attorney Michael Baltaxe wrote in the filing.

"[O'Donnell] believes that by this conduct Laurent explicitly and implicitly conditioned job benefits and the absence of job detriments on [her] acceptance of sexual conduct," Baltaxe wrote.

She filed a complaint about Laurent's sexual advances to Riot Games's HR department, and shortly after the company fired her.

A Riot Games spokesperson, however, dismissed these claims. It told The Washington Post O'Donnell was terminated "following more than a dozen complaints from both employees and external partners, and after multiple coaching discussions to try and address these concerns."

Insider has reached out to Riot Games for comment.

This isn't the first time Riot Games has come under fire for workplace harassment and discrimination.

In 2018, two employees filed a class action 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. The plaintiffs claimed the company also denied them equal pay and blocked their career advancements on the basis of gender, the plaintiffs claimed.

The lawsuit came hot on the heels of an investigation by Kotaku in which more than two dozen employees spoke out against the company.

Riot Games acknowledged its work culture had fostered sexual harassment and misogyny, and responded to the lawsuit by suspending its chief operating officer and beginning an overhaul of its internal policies.

The company also agreed to pay a $10 million settlement, but this was blocked in January 2020 by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. It said the company could owe as much as $400 million for denying women equal pay.

A Riot Games spokesperson told Insider the agency's $400 million figure was "absurd," describing it as "a click-bait number with no grounding in reality."