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EA Settles Employee Lawsuit 53

Posted by Zonk
from the one-down-a-few-hundred-to-go dept.
Vicissidude writes "EA has agreed to pay out $15.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by artists seeking overtime pay." From the aticle: "The employees charged that EA violated labor laws requiring it to pay overtime and were seeking past-due overtime pay and penalties. Under the settlement, about 200 entry-level artists will become hourly workers eligible for overtime pay and a one-time grant of restricted EA stock. Those employees would then be excluded from bonuses and stock option grants. No news on the lawsuit filed by EA programmers."
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EA Settles Employee Lawsuit

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  • This is a good sign (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mindaktiviti (630001) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:22AM (#13729706)
    It would be nice if video game employees would be properly compensated for their hard work and dedication as opposed to just working at $13-18 / hour if you converted their salaries to wages.

    But I have a question, are European game companies the same?
    • $13-$18/hr is what they make if they only work 40hr weeks. When you start working as much overtime as is required in the software industry the hourly wage starts to go down quite a bit.
      • At my school comp for CS majors is $50K on average right out of school. If you work 40 hours a week with no vacation for a year this is $23/hr. Video game companies generally pay above average wages because they require above average talent. So . . . yeah.
        • by AuMatar (183847)
          Video game designers usually pay below market rate in other CS disciplines, because they have such a high number of people wanting to work in their industry. Especially for the entry level jobs. Add that to massive mandatory overtime, and its quite easy for a game dev to make in the low teens per actual hour worked.
          • by badasscat (563442)
            Video game designers usually pay below market rate in other CS disciplines, because they have such a high number of people wanting to work in their industry. Especially for the entry level jobs.

            I worked for a major publisher in New York for several years (you figure out which; there is only one) and I don't know anybody there who made less than $50,000 per year regardless of experience level. Now, I didn't know everybody at the company, and I didn't know everybody's salary even among my friends and acquain
            • 50K in new york isn't that great. I was making 70K starting 4 years ago doing firmware. With stock grants and cash bonuses, I'll be making 90K for the next 4 years. While its not hideous, you are not being paid over industry average.

              Thats why its not worth even considering doing games for me. Sure, it'd be interesting, but insane hours for low pay.
    • It would be nice if video game employees would be properly compensated for their hard work and dedication as opposed to just working at $13-18 / hour if you converted their salaries to wages.

      Video game employees should be classified properly as hourly workers, which may or may not increase how much money they take home. You can't say X job deserves Y money, when there is a long line of people who would gladly do the job for less. Many programmers would work for free just for the pride of getting their n
      • by tepp (131345)
        Many programmers would work for free just for the pride of getting their names on a video game.

        I've worked on muds which had "free" volunteer help... the quality of the work you get is abysmal. And, people burn out real fast when 4-8 hours per night is needed to maintain the schedule.

        Once you are out of college, you need money to pay rent, get food, get your beater car to work, get new computer equipment (my 3 year old computer needs a new graphics card sooooo bad right now, pixel shaders make it choke)...

        T
  • Apparently it sucks. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:26AM (#13729752)
    http://boards.polycount.net/showthreaded.php?Cat=0 &Number=73470 [polycount.net]

    So all those long time employees that were screwed over will not be compensated, will not get any improvement in their work conditions and apparently there's no pay out, either.

    Overall this settlement is worse than the Microsoft antitrust "Seattlement".
  • by mindaktiviti (630001) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:35AM (#13729841)

    Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter said EA will get productivity gains from the changes and, if it needs to, will control costs by weeding out slower workers.

    He said the artists who are reclassified as hourly would likely get more supervision and be assigned work-related quotas, resulting in less job satisfaction.

    "Think of it more like a factory worker," he said. "The assembly line just sped up."

    Is this really a win for the artists? Are quotas a good thing for game development? If an artist is supposed to pump out x amount of textures or models or what not, then will they still be able to put out great games?

    I can see it now, an artist who's talents are probably at the higher end of the spectrum...but this is because he takes a bit more time on his work, thus giving managers the excuse to fire him at whim because he's not "performing up to standards."

    • by garcia (6573) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:02AM (#13730182) Homepage
      I can see it now, an artist who's talents are probably at the higher end of the spectrum...but this is because he takes a bit more time on his work, thus giving managers the excuse to fire him at whim because he's not "performing up to standards."

      Then he'll find a job elsewhere, have better working conditions, probably better pay, and in all liklihood a better self-worth which will cross into his personal life as well.

      If EA is really going to bounce a "higher end" talent because they aren't meeting draconian quotas, then they don't give a shit about game quality or employee quality and aren't worth working for anyway.
    • by Chyeld (713439)
      Working for EA is the loss for these people, not the settlement.

      It's obvious they are working for a company that does not value the work done as much as it values the bottom line, when you work for a company like that your two options are typically put up or leave. Yes, you can try to force the company to create a better working environment, as this lawsuit attempted to do, however it's about as useful as sitting the school bully into a the group of his normal victims and telling everyone to get along.

      EA do
      • Want to fix the problem? Ban non-compete agreements for all non-executive positions. Problem fixed overnight - EA would have to retain their employees and be nice to them or see them quickly rush over to somebody else. Non-competes are one of the most anti-competitive, anti-worker, pro-business schemes in the modern workforce and should be eliminated.

        Disclaimer: I am pro-capitalist, pro-profit and all for the right of a company to maximize their bottom line. I don't care if corporation X makes a trilli

        • You're not a capitalist. Non-competes are part of the compensation package an employee agrees to. Bathroom break limits, healthcare benefits, etc. You are coercing the employee with your law by preventing them from being able to sign one.

          Banning non-compete clauses outright would be akin to raising the minimum wage in that it increases the cost of labor without the mutual consent of the employer and employee.

          The workarounds would be to make everyone a 'contractor' and only those who agreed to non-competes

          • You're not a capitalist. Non-competes are part of the compensation package an employee agrees to. Bathroom break limits, healthcare benefits, etc. You are coercing the employee with your law by preventing them from being able to sign one.

            In other words a company should have the right to force their employees to work in hazardous conditions without protection? Government does have legitimate interest in establishing safe and humane working conditions. I can still be pro-capitalism and be against requirin

            • I fear you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what capitalism means. It really involves one thing - ownership and soverignty over that ownership with no coercion. If I own a software company, and you want to work for me, saying that I can't dictate the relationships of that which I own - without coercing anyone - is not capitalism.

              Similarly, I cannot force you to accept my non-compete clause. But you can't force me to rescind it in order to work for me. There can be no 'coercion.'

              The only thing that c

              • If I own a software company, and you want to work for me, saying that I can't dictate the relationships of that which I own - without coercing anyone - is not capitalism.

                This is not what I am saying - you may dictate the relationships of that which you own, but when the relationship is terminated you should have no say over what you do not own. You may keep your patents. You may keep your copyrights. You may enforce protection of both when infringements are discovered. But you should not have any powe

                • But you see you signed the NC as a condition for current employment. You can't buy a car with a loan, give it away/total it, and not pay the rest of the loan off. Maybe you should have not taken the job with the NC anyway rather than whining about it afterwards.

                  But we really don't disagree - I stated your position is not capitalist, and you agree it is not. QED.

        • In California, non-competes are basically unenforceable and it hasn't changed anything. Management is paid astronomical multiples of the non-management workers just like the rest of the country.

          Please spare us all the "Unions are evil" diatribe because it's baseless dogma brought to you by the wealthiest Americans. Your going to need to re-read the next couple of lines a few times because it will shock you.

          The "unions are evil" dogma is designed to minimize competition for wealth and labor.
          1. It prevents y
          • I don't state unions are evil anywhere. I don't believe that unions are evil. I do believe that unions have a place, but that they - like everything else - overstep their bounds and do things that they shouldn't.

            (I can't help but notice that you don't mention AFSCME... that is one union that should not exist - public employees should never be allowed to unionize.)

            2. The wealthiest individuals remain just that. It protects the rich from the poor.

            At the end of the year who ends up with the larger salarie

            • I think we can both agree that both sides labor/capitalists can over-reach.

              At the end of the year who ends up with the larger salaries... the union chiefs or the people they "represent"?
              Let's talk valuation for a minute. If I as a representative get another $500 million out of an organization for it's workers, it is the equivalent of a CEO who increases the value of a corporation. If I ask for $1 million of that,(0.2%) there's $499 million to distribute to the workers. No, it's not overpaying.

              I stated "Un
              • If I as a representative get another $500 million out of an organization for it's workers, it is the equivalent of a CEO who increases the value of a corporation. If I ask for $1 million of that,(0.2%) there's $499 million to distribute to the workers. No, it's not overpaying.

                Personally I think that extra million should go to the people actually doing the work but that's just me.

                That unions in general are in decline in the U.S. has as much to do with the way the declining unions are operate as the capital

                • keraneuology said:

                  Once a person stops working for a company (or the government!) they should stop getting money from them. It is a question of individual responsibility to save up enough for retirement, even if that means holding off on that second home, buying fewer new cars and taking fewer cruises during the working years.

                  Now hold on... a moment ago you were *supporting* non-compete agreements.

                  But now, you say that an there should be no ongoing obligations between a worker's former employer and

                  • Now hold on... a moment ago you were *supporting* non-compete agreements.

                    Not I... I am strongly opposed to non-compete agreements. If a company doesn't respect the talents and contributions of an individual then they should run the risk of said individual jumping ship and going to the competition. I don't quite follow your train of thought... the quoted text was regarding pensions to which I am also opposed because they force companies (and governments) into financial holes from which there is no gracef

                  • Just a quick blurb about unions [detnews.com] (UAW in particular) that appeared in one of the papers I surf every day:

                    Discussing the imminent implosion of Delphi - union members are being asked to sacrifice 2/3 of their salaries or Delphi will most assuredly go bankrupt,

                    [UAW President Ron Gettelfinger] likely wouldn't acknowledge, however, that his union demanded "more, more, more" -- and often got it -- when its biggest employers increasingly could not afford it; that labor contracts that pay laid-off people to sit at

                • Personally I think that extra million should go to the people actually doing the work but that's just me.
                  Wait a minute, that's my contribution to the Union. I "produced" $500 million. Members don't work for free and neither do I. My point was overpaid management makes the exact same arguement to justify their wages.

                  poor state of public schools
                  Hmmm, no. I can argue the following:
                  1. Taxpayers don't want to pay for public schools and a host of other public services. They haven't for decades. Privatizing
                  • Personally I think that extra million should go to the people actually doing the work but that's just me.

                    Wait a minute, that's my contribution to the Union. I "produced" $500 million. Members don't work for free and neither do I. My point was overpaid management makes the exact same arguement to justify their wages.

                    I think it is a stupid argument for the executives as well. I'm an equal opportunity knocker.

                    You will find public schools in areas where parents are involved and generally wealthy enough to

    • That's how animation was done back in the day at Disney. Factories of "in-betweeners" filling in the details between frames drawn by more advanced animators, who themselves were modelling their work off of storyboards and drawings done by the person in charge. All for the sake of the dream of becoming that guy who leads everyone else.

      Yeah, people will still do the work, and they will like it. Perhaps not for the work itself, but for what it can bring.
    • This is exactly what EA wanted. In their minds, instead of having to fire the workers who brought this hell upon them, the lack of benefits and job satisfaction will make them quit on their own. This will leave the workers who don't mind being abused as the staff. The job market is FULL of people who would love to work on any games, even if it means spending their lives at work. They will just replace the "whiners" with the "suckers" and move on.
  • by lividdr (775594) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:48AM (#13729968) Homepage
    TFA is light on details - $15.6M for ~200 people is less than $8K apiece and that doesn't consider legal fees, etc that come off the top. It's also not clear if this is in cash or in 'restricted' EA stock or some combination thereof.

    I used to work a salaried position that didn't pay overtime but demanded 50 - 60 hours/week. I asked about changing to hourly and was told, flat out, that it would be a pay cut. My salary, apparently, included an "allowance" of about 15% for "overtime compensation". If I converted to hourly, not only would I take a 15% pay cut, but I would absolutely never, ever, be allowed to put in overtime.

    Sucks to be these guys. You just know that EA is going to do everything it can to make them unhappy so they quit. There are too many naive people out there who want jobs in the games industry.

    Corporate IT/software development needs to clean up its act, but they have too much leverage over employees - "cheap" contractors and off-shoring. When your company is measured by the bottom line and double-digit increased "value" to share-holders year-after-year, there just isn't any business case to treat people fairly. It's despicable, but that's the attitude that business schools are churning out.
    • The people affected are "entry level", i.e. newbies. The kind that you can replace easily. Of course, the pros are pissed off, too. Would be funny if they lost some of their high-profile people to this.
    • Re: Math is Hard! (Score:5, Informative)

      by BladeRider (24966) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:20AM (#13730461) Homepage
      You need to recheck your calculations. It would be approx. $80K each (before legal fees, etc).
      • Oops. Must remember not to do math before 8AM.

        The question still stands whether it's cash or "restricted" stock.
        • The question still stands whether it's cash or "restricted" stock.

          In other news EA swiftly paid off it's pending settlement with its employees in copies of surplus pc and video games. "What am I going to do with 3,000 copies of Madden 2001, several hundred copies of "The Sims" and their expansions, and a whole crate full of copies of Golden Eye: Rogue Agent for the X-Box?" Said one incredulous artist who was expecting almost $80,000 in cash for his settlement. "I won't even get more than a buck or two
          • Don't laugh. EA has held lots of publicity events to give away Madden in the past. It increase their market share immediately and it cost them nothing to burn copies after copies. Now that TakeTwo's ESPN NFL is gone, and EA pwns the NFL, they can ride low publicity gear for some time.

    • I used to work a salaried position that didn't pay overtime but demanded 50 - 60 hours/week. I asked about changing to hourly and was told, flat out, that it would be a pay cut. My salary, apparently, included an "allowance" of about 15% for "overtime compensation". If I converted to hourly, not only would I take a 15% pay cut, but I would absolutely never, ever, be allowed to put in overtime.

      I had the same exact thing happen to me. Going back to hourly would mean no overtime and a pay cut. Staying sal
      • I know (at least in California) that they can't dock exempt employees for pay if you don't work 40 hours, as long as you at least show up for some part of the day. (They may be able to dock you vacation hours, I'm not clear on that).

        Of course most companies will tell you otherwise, including mine.
    • You missed by an order of magnitude. It's $78,000, not $7,800. 1.56 * 10^7 / 2.0 * 10^2 = .78 * 10^5 = 7.8 * 10^4 = 78,000.
    • Corporate IT/software development needs to clean up its act

      I agree, to an extent. I'd say that's half the problem. The other half is that people need to find a better job. I realize that is easier said than done - but it can be done.

      I'm a slightly higher-than-average salary, combined with excellent overtime pay that kicks in beyond the 40 hours/week. Combine that with stock matching and yearly bonuses, and I have nothing to complain about. I'm not bragging - I'm just saying that its worth looking a

  • Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter said EA will get productivity gains from the changes and, if it needs to, will control costs by weeding out slower workers. He said the artists who are reclassified as hourly would likely get more supervision and be assigned work-related quotas, resulting in less job satisfaction. So....instead of saying, "Madden '06 is coming out October 2nd no matter how many hours you have to work!" They can now saw, "Madden '06 is coming out on Oct 2nd and you only ge
    • You say that like artists at EA had any artistic freedom. It's an assembly line over there, everyone does one step and usually there are very tight restrictions on what they make (e.g. "You make a head that looks like Sean Connery in the 60s!" "You make a matching body!" "You animate that to look like James Bond!").
  • I'm glad to see that those employees are challenging everything (spoken with emphatic whisper).

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