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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?
  • 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 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.
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @01:36PM (#13732218)
    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) <basscadet75@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @02:07PM (#13732565)
    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 acquaintances, but nobody there felt like salaries were the problem.

    In fact, the impression I got from working there was that this particular publisher, at least, paid higher than average salaries (compared with other industries) specifically so that they'd be able to demand more of the workers in terms of hours worked. There was no such thing as a 40 hour work week. If anybody complained, the implicit (if not explicit) response from management would be "go try finding a company that'll pay you as much as we do for the work you do."

    People who say this is about the money are really missing the point. This lawsuit was not about money, because salaries in the game industry are actually fairly high. This lawsuit was about time, and maybe more importantly, the respect of an employees' time when they're not supposed to be at work. I think most people would agree that there is a point at which almost no amount of money makes a job worth it anymore. If you're asked to work, say, 167 hours per week (that's every single hour of every week, minus an hour per week for sleep), but your employer will pay you $1 million per year, is that worth it? I would turn that down. Maybe I could do it for a week just to make a quick few thousand bucks, but after that I'd probably be almost literally dead.

    So the goal of this lawsuit was really to force EA to acknowledge that employees have their own time too. And if EA wants a chunk of that time, they have to ask, and it's going to cost them. They're not just going to get it for free anymore. Maybe that will cause them to think twice about forcing what amounts to slave labor conditions on their work force in the first place.
  • by tepp (131345) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @05:41PM (#13734532)
    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)...

    The sad fact is, people need money to survive. You can't expect someone to work 60+ hours a week for free, not if they aren't living in Mommy's basement and eating her food. Which, I'd really rather not do cause while I've done that in the past, it's downright humiliating. And, the smell of the cat's litterbox near the bed is such a wonderful odor....

    My experiences working with "free" programmers:

    1) It took a lot of oversight and managers and QA folk to deal with these guys. A small minority were very good, but they typically were being paid by some other company to work for them, so they left quickly. Which meant the majority of our programmers were people who did not program for a living. So their code was abysmal. They didn't check for error conditions, boundry conditions, loss of connection issues... spelling was abysmal. Grammer was abysmal. Getting them to adhere to our code specs and our general "look and feel" of the world was very difficult cause "that's not fun!". You can't fire free help, so you spend a lot of time explaining to them why they can't have a fuzzy toilet seat cover in the middle of Minas Tirith. And they complain. And they try to sneak it through anyway.

    2) Those who eventually became better programmers because of us, or those who already were programmers who joined us - eventually get better paying - okay, PAYING jobs in a few months. The sad fact is our game required 4-8 hours per night of programming to make any decent progress into releasing new areas. Even at 4 hours a night, that's 32 hours a week. When an employer comes along and offers that person lots of money to work at a "normal" job that requires overtime, say 60 hour workweeks , they find they can't work on the two towers anymore and stay sane.

    3) Burnout. Again, if you work 32 hours for free every week, eventually you suffer from burnout. At some point, your name in the "programmers" section just doesn't cut it anymore. Maybe your car broke down and you need to fix it and you're broke. Maybe you get a girlfriend and you want to spend time with her. Maybe you got a new game and you want to play that instead. Remember - these are free employees, so we can't demand nothing... which leads me to:

    4) It is nearly impossible to do a scheduled release with free help, due to people leaving due to burnout or better pay, or just poor quality of the others.

    Yes, you can find programmers to work on games for free. But trust me, it is so not worth it.
  • by Generalisimo Zang (805701) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @06:59PM (#13735270)
    I worked at EA.

    Not only do they demand 60 to 70 hour work-weeks of their employees during "crunch time" (which is about 50% of the time on any given project), but the internal processes in place are incredibly short-sighted and just plain dumb from a productivity standpoint.

    "Oh, that can't be true", you might say, "EA cares about productivity, they'd fix that."

    Not true... well, it's true that they care about productivity, but they care more about keeping everyone under the thumbs of some seriously clue-less folks in management.

    So they have the most ass-backwards processes in place that have people working 60 or 70 hours in a week, when 40 hour workweeks done with rational processes in place, would produce more products of a higher quality.

    As an example:

    There was a team working on an Golf game, with the name of a major golfing star 's endorsement. The team making the golf game was on a tight schedule, and decided to re-use a graphics engine and physics engine from a previously-released game.

    So far, so good... however, the code in the company repository was from the alpha-phase of the previous game's development... complete with ALL of the bugs and issues that the OTHER team had already been paid millions to fix.

    The company procedures in place mandated that they second team go through the standard procedures, and basically spend the first two-to-three months of the project, having the QA folks do the exact same testing that they'd already done on the previous title, in order to find and fix the exact same bugs that they'd already found and fixed.

    Oh, but wait... it gets better. One of the QA leads had himself worked on the previous title, and had access to the bug database from the first title (which was something that would not normally be allowed to the QA folks on the second title), so he grabbed all of the bugs from the old database that were solely physics and graphics engine-related, and put them into the fresh database for the new title.

    Everybody (on the project that is) was overjoyed. They'd just saved weeks or months of effort at reduplicating previous efforts... and then management found out what had occured.

    The QA lead was reprimanded for violating procedure, and the project head was reprimanded for allowing the QA lead to violate procedure, and it looked for a bit like the QA guy might get fired, but in the end he was let off with a warning.

    Jeesh... one boggles at what his fate would have been if he'd actually had access to the fixed code itself, rather than just the QA database that showed where to look for problems in the code.

    Now, perhaps some of the people here on Slashdot might be familiar with an obscure concept called "Open Source". In this thing called "Open Source", people around the world collaborate on finding and fixing bugs, and sharing code that has been proven to function well.

    Heh... at EA, they don't even share code between projects, and they don't even bother to properly archive the fixed and tested code that they themselves have already paid money to fix and test.

    "Well", you might say, "That just proves that they're incredibly stupid, but doesn't neccesarally prove that they're evil."

    True... that one story doesn't prove they're evil... but I personally witnesses about 20 even worse stories, and heard about another 50 more from folks working in the same building.

    Trust me... EA as a company is both stupid and evil... or, perhaps just so criminally stupid that it begins to border on evil.

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