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League of Legends developer Riot criticised over return to office policies

A new report has highlighted staff concerns at Riot Games, as the League of Legends developer has begun encouraging staff back into its Los Angeles-based office.

Employees told Vice that Riot’s decision to drop its mask mandate and stop testing for unvaccinated employees put them at risk, as hybrid working with three days in the office per week was being encouraged as the new norm.

Today’s report comes just a week after similar criticisms and staff walkouts at Activision, which also has studios in California. Both companies said the changes reflected their state’s recent relaxation in Covid safety rules – despite rising case numbers due to the Omicron BA2 subvariant.

“I’m angry over it,” an Riot employee told Vice. “It’s a foolish and pointless policy being done at a poor time, and being handled without real guarantee of our safety. We’re just playing Russian roulette with Rioters’ health.”

In response, Riot has said it strongly encourages (but does not enforce) mask wearing on its property – unless that person has been a close contact of someone who tested positive, in which case mask-wearing is mandatory for 10 days.

Riot says it also provides free N95 masks to those who want them, has installed a MERV-rated air filtration system, and provides a daily health risk assessment for its campus, as well as its own contact tracing. (Employees are given RFID tags to carry in the office which log close contacts and can then ping staff at risk if someone they’ve been close to tests positive.)

Finally, staff say there has been confusion over those eligible to continue remote working full-time, which is available for some but not others. One staff member who recently quit suggested this was based on “merit with co-workers”.

“Reasonable accommodations based on medical needs are part of a formalised process that is managed by the Benefits team,” Riot responded in a statement to Vice. “If a Rioter believes that they have circumstances that prohibit them from being able to return to campus – such as certain medical conditions or medical caretaking responsibilities – we encourage them to share those concerns with their manager and HR business partner to discuss what accommodations or leaves are available based on their specific needs. We know that every individual’s situation is different, so all requests are evaluated on a case by case basis.”

As the pandemic continues, more companies are seeking to establish a long-term framework for office-based working amongst employees who have grown used to working well remotely. Further reports – and friction – seems inevitable.

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