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EA Settles Overtime Lawsuit

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the dust-settles-for-ea-spouse dept.

54

Heffenfeffer writes "Gamasutra reports that Electronic Arts is settling their class action suit with their programmers to the tune of $14.9 million. It also turns out that one of the named plaintiffs of said lawsuit was the spouse of the formerly anonymous blogger "ea_spouse" who wrote a scathing commentary on EA over a year ago which may have formed the basis of this suit."

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Shocking... (0)

TheJediGeek (903350) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206676)

I'm REALLY trying to act surprised about EA making programmers work overtime and not pay them.
I'll let you know if I get there.

Re:Shocking... (5, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206750)

The real suprize is that EA lost, especially in this employee-hostile day & age...

Jaysyn

The thing is... (3, Insightful)

JarinArenos (955039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207046)

The fact that they did indeed lose, despite the current business climate speaks volumes about just HOW BAD things were. Once things came out, it was simply impossible for the court to turn a blind eye to EA's reprehensible business practices.

Re:Shocking... (1)

HardCase (14757) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207142)

The real suprize is that EA lost, especially in this employee-hostile day & age...

I think that IBM, Microsoft, UPS and Wal-Mart might disagree with you. And those are just the multimillion dollar settlements.

As somebody else pointed out, though, the real shame of it all is that the big payday will be for the attorneys.

-h-

Re:Shocking... (1)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207312)

Courts have never been especially friendly to companies who fail to pay workers money they are owed, no matter which political party is in charge.

Re:Shocking... (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207358)

I didn't say a damn thing about politics, but thanks for playing!

Jaysyn

Re:Shocking... (1)

Aaron England (681534) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208959)

They settled. I'm sure if this went to court they would have lost a lot more.

Re:Shocking... (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 8 years ago | (#15215946)

Agreed.

$14.9 mil is a drop in the bucket for EA. Their insurance will likely take care of it in some fashion and it won't actually affect their profits for the year.

Re:Shocking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15206855)

Well yeah, it is. I work consistently with overtime, its a constant and that time is expensed against project but I'm still paid as salary. Now I never had to work hours as sever as some of these guys at EA but I'm in the same boat.

But that's the industry I'm in and I get no protection because the view of alot of the public is that I'm overpaid to begin with and I need a different set of rules than anyone else. All thanks to the .com explosion from years back and the lack of qualified IT workers/programmers... now work like ours is constantly under threat of being moved to some poorer country where no one would complain to make a fraction of what any of us do.

I actually appreciated your humour in this but lets keep in mind there are alot of us that have no security in this field and have the whip cracked on us as well.

cat "got" my tongue. (4, Insightful)

sirius sam (963847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206739)

The games industry can pay low wages and make people slave because it's "cool" and people want to be in it. Sad really.

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (1)

dick pubes (963843) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206751)

Who is at fault here, the company for paying low wages or the people for accepting them?

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (5, Insightful)

s16le (963839) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206781)

It is easy to say that people should not accept a job, or that they can quit. However, if they have a family to support, or have a medical condition and need the money or insurance coverage, not having a job for a few weeks while they find a new one might not be an option.

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (3, Insightful)

Shihar (153932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206912)

The issue is that video game programmers make substantially less then other programmers. The reason why this is so is because a lot of people want to specifically do video game programming instead of some other more lucrative type. In this case, their low wages really are their own fault.

The key to happiness in this world is to find something that brings you some satisfaction and that pays enough to keep you happy. Some people are have very low needs and are happy with $20,000 and a job they find fully rewarding. Other people are happy making $100,000 on a job they would quit without even the curtsy of a two weeks notice they ever won the lottery.

A few lucky people get the best of both worlds and work a high paying job that they love. I have met workaholic business owners that fill this exact category. One guy in particular that I know well over 80 hours a week owns a massive house with a dozen cars that he never uses because he is only home for more then a few days a month. He is probably going to die of a heart attack in the next 10 years, but he truly loves what he does and would probably do it for much less. I have also met people that dropped out of high school, got no education, and are working shit jobs that they hate for shit pay.

Most people though, they really fall somewhere in-between. They balance self fulfillment in the working world with money. You don't go to school for a sociology major expecting to get out of college and run into a pile of money. People make their choices. This programs are no different. They have intentionally picked a field with poor pay. Using the education they already have they have the option of finding higher paid work. If making video games is what they really love to do though, then they need to find a balance. Is the shit pay worth the job? If it isn't, get the fuck out.

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207109)

Yep.

And, you know what?

There's a balance between capitalism and socialism as well.

We want a humane balance between the purely mercantile calculations of risks & value, and the dreams, lives, and sympathies of people who labor within the companies that are manufactured for them.

A simple declaration of the absolute fiat of property and business owners is out of place. If you can't stand it, get the fuck out.

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (3, Insightful)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208250)

While it's true that minimum working standards are non-capitalistic, that does not make them de facto bad. Take a look back in history at the working conditions of the 1920's. Worker safety was a joke; if you were sick, too bad, work or don't get paid; if you get seriously injured you were probably out of a job and well on your way to being dead broke. Pure capitalism is not functional, in the end it will degenrate into a form of feudalism (technically oligarcy) with a huge seperation between the have's and the have-not's. This will, almost inevitably, lead to civil unrest. In fact, in the early part of the 20th century, this is exactly where it lead. Workers unionized, and there were a lot of violent clashes. In the end, it was realized that there needs to be a balancing factor in the worker-employer relationship.
If you look at the relationship between a worker and his employer it is naturally coersive. The employer has a measure of power over worker. Yes, technically the worker can leave at anytime, but this involves some level of risk, so the worker will be inclined to stay with a known quantity, rather than taking the risk; this is just human nature. The goal of employement laws is to prevent the employer from abusing this power, in order to pervent a race to the bottom condition, much like the US had in the 1920's. Which would lead to civil unrest.

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (2, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15209733)

Some people are have very low needs and are happy with $20,000 and a job they find fully rewarding.

The flaw in that logic is that anyone can get sick without warning. The idea of being poor but happy is a charming but dangerous little fantasy. At the end of the day you need to make sure you can live with yourself and don't hate every waking moment but the fact is most people go to a job to earn a living, and living involves unexpected costs sometimes.

EA owes them Re:cat "got" my tongue. (1)

simon_hibbs2 (792812) | more than 8 years ago | (#15211106)

Making choices is all very well, but those choices need to be made on information. The EA employees in question were at least decieved, and perhaps even intentionaly lied to. The conditions they worked under were extreme even for the games industry, and their willingness to 'go that extra mile' for the company was ruthlessly exploited. If they'd been told the truth about what would eventualy be expected of them, there's no way they would have accepted it. EA either exploted them, or at least totaly missmanaged the project and relid on thes people to make it good. Either way, EA owes them. Simon Hibbs

cat got my tongue? nope, just my paycheque. (2, Interesting)

Burlap (615181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206811)

mix of the two really. With the job market full of bursted bubblers it's hard for a new grad to get their foot in the door with a lot of companies. EA has a good policy for accepting programmers without 5+ years of experiance so they end up with a large number of fresh grads working for lower wages because they are still wet behind the ears. After 12 months of working a crappy job to pay the bills, and 1500 unansered resumes I applied there. I got a different job before EA offered an interview, but after that long of saying "how can I help you today sir?" ANYTHING looks like a good job.

it's a mistake to hire all young people. (1)

HelloKitty (71619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208929)

>> EA has a good policy for accepting programmers without 5+ years of
>>experiance so they end up with a large number of fresh grads working
>>for lower wages because they are still wet behind the ears.

while this is nice for the youngsters to "get their foot in the door", it is kind of is suspicious, don't you think? why do you think these fresh green pups had to work so many long hours? could it be inexperience?

on the other hand, I know this problem is not ALL fresh young pups... stupid managers can really kill a project and its people. but again on the other hand, when a non-technical manager can only get advice from the youngsters, that's a problem too.

What do we learn?
  - It's a problem to have all young people. You really want a mix on your team to balance fresh ideas and experience. Perhaps something like 1/3 of senior, mid, and junior. (only a guess)
  - It's a problem to have managers think that they can cut corners by hiring young people only. It's a problem if that manager doesn't have a clue by themselves and they're taking advice from young people, who don't reliably have a clue (sometimes do, sometimes don't)...

Re:it's a mistake to hire all young people. (1)

HelloKitty (71619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208951)

note, I'm not railing on inexperienced programmers. They have their own set of problems and benefits I'm very aware of. the core problem (I'm guessing) is that of staffing and scheduling, which often sits squarly on mgmt...

or maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. :)
after all, I don't work there...

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (1)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206849)

"Who is at fault here, the company for paying low wages or the people for accepting them?"
Both!

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207022)

Who is at fault, the rapist or the girl who didn't take a gun when she went shopping?
Who is at fault, the dictator or the people who neither flee the country nor attempt a futile revolution?

Newsflash -- the powerful always oppress the weak, and sometimes the weak have no option but to bend over and take it. Those like you who stand on the sidelines and sneer at the weak for not being powerful can fuck off and die. The rest of us, we appreciate it when the legal system steps in to ensure that everybody receives fair compensation for the hard work they do.

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (1)

skeller (145333) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207545)

Get real. Both of those situations involve force or its threat. When your employer screws you, it's hardly the same thing. I'm not saying there shouldn't be labor laws and legal protections, but don't equate long work hours with rape or the oppression of innocents by dictators. Not all power imbalances are equal or anything even close to it.

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (1)

DanQuixote (945427) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206960)

"The games industry can pay low wages"...

True.

"and make people slave because it's "cool" and people want to be in it. Sad really."

False.

Because game programming has non-monetary benefits, the employers can indeed pay lower and pressure for more hours. Did they truly MAKE them do it though? Of course not.

If you don't like the job, then the responsibility is YOURS to renegotiate or go elsewhere.

In this case it was "aggressive legal" negotiations. I think the programmers should have left a long time ago instead of going this route, even though I also find game programming to be quite fun.

Re:cat "got" my tongue. (1)

rumcho (921428) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208905)

yeah, it's sad that they'll think working for a game company is cooler than working for whatever else industy. I am in the porn industry - so what? a job is a job. same shit everywhere. Roumen. P.S. the only sad thing I see is working for Microsoft and/or on a Microsoft-based platform.

All that overtime ... (2)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206792)

All that overtime and their games still suck? [slashdot.org]

Re:All that overtime ... (3, Insightful)

nocomment (239368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206854)

Maybe all that OT is the reason they suck?

Re:All that overtime ... (2, Interesting)

skintigh2 (456496) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207272)

The last EA game I bought (Command and Conquere Generals) had so many bugs it was basically unplayable out of the box. 12 months later there were still so many bugs that every other game ended literally in a few seconds at the hands of a cheater. 3+ years on I'm still holding my breath for the "ladder kit" that was promised. Their response to user complaints? They had one employee who would troll the message boards 1 day a week and make empty promises about balance issues, map hacks and cheats.

Then they released a buggy expansion pack (no, there was no ladder kit in it)

EA has some amazing programmers, artists and designers, but their management has found a way to turn gold into lead. They bought Westwood and turned an award winning franchise into a fiasco. And in a misguided effort to push people towards the new bug-riddled C&C they killed the established C&C comminity by shutting down all the game servers and forum servers for the older releases.

It boggles the mind how irrational and out of touch they are with their customers and employees.

Not despite, because (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206879)

Game creation is, the name implies it, a creative process. You start toying with ideas, you tinker with implementations, you twist and tweak one thing or another.

Now, when your creativity, imagination and illusion are shattered under hours of overtime, you start to hate what you used to love. You stop wanting to create a great game, you start wanting to get that damn thing outta the door and never see it again.

Re:Not despite, because (0)

Y2 (733949) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207040)

I know a guy in this industry. He's a supervisor of programmers. He travels quite a bit. The programmers are in Russia.

makes you wonder... (2, Insightful)

Burlap (615181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206827)

just how much of that money each employee will actually see...

Re:makes you wonder... (1)

FatMacDaddy (878246) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206883)

My thoughts exactly. The term "class action" in a lawsuit seems to guarantee that the actual "victims," for lack of a better term, see a few dollars from the settlement while the lawyers get enough to retire.

Re:makes you wonder... (2, Funny)

sunwukong (412560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207402)

Maybe the victims can pool their EA gift certificates from the settlement to boost the sales of their own titles so their managers can get a nice bonus. Then, in appreciation, they'll get decent quality t-shirts and coffee mugs! Morale will soar ...

Re:makes you wonder... (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 8 years ago | (#15215919)

Since I was involved in and received a settlement from a class action suit against CSC for a similar overtime issue, I'll give you some of the math they gave us and what end result I received.

Employment dates - take the number of working days the employee has been working (in EA's case, we're talking 7 days a week.) In this suit from 2/14/01 to 2/14/06, 260 weeks or 1826 days. This is the maximum that an employee with EA through that full term could achieve.

Overtime - Since everyone works different overtime, you have to average this. Let's say Dev A worked 80 hours a week, Dev B worked 60 hours a week and the standard work week is 40 hours (ideally). Then the average OT would be 30 hours (A+B)/2 - 40

Pay rate - This would be calculated for each employee. So if your rate is $25/hour ($52k annual), then overtime should be 1.5 your rate, or $37.50.

Now if Bob Programmer was employed the full five years and was paid $25/hour, he should get about (#weeks * avg. OT * OT pay rate) = 260 * 30 * 37.50 = $292,500.00.

Keep in mind this is an ideal case where the employee was there for five years, everyone works gobs of overtime and the salary is in a certain range. If everyone involved received this ideal, then only 51 employees would get paid with $14.9 mil.

In reality, there are other factors that bite into this: lawyer fees come off the top, administration fees to distribute the monies, and other fractions that eat away at the lump sum. In my case they called in some state factors, where CA employees received a higher fraction (0.7) of pay than we TX employees (0.3). When I worked at CSC, I was making about $26/hour. I worked 45-50 hours a week. Some worked more; some worked less. I think they averaged us at 45 (all employees OT/number of employees). For about 2 years worth of 5 OT hours a week, after the "state factors" I ended up with a check for about $2,100.00. I suspect the EA employees may only see a maximum of $50k each, and I doubt there will be anything left for any scholorships or charities.

I was more thrilled that someone at least stood up and stuck it to CSC. Likewise in this case, I just don't want EA to get away with abusing their employees.

Game coder was my dream job (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206908)

At least until I've seen what's behind the curtain. Yes, I do have the math skills, the DX experience and the necessary understanding to create a good engine.

But I certainly don't want to see my creativity shattered under unbearable timetables. I don't mind doing overtime. Currently, an average work day is like 10-12 hours. 'cause it's fun.

Being FORCED to work 14 hours and more is by no means any kind of motivation. Actually, I'd probably start sabotaging my own work.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

mikeisme77 (938209) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206958)

Actually, I'd probably start sabotaging my own work. Now we know why EA games tend to suck... Thanks for the insight!

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15206995)

More likely they suck 'cause their creators don't give a damn about them and only wanna get them out the door to get some sleep.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (2, Informative)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207095)

Pull a couple of 38 hours shifts (i.e., working non-stop for nearly two days) will give you new meaning of being a zombie in the video game industry. The worst part is that they still expect you to come in at 9am the next morning and still work the weekends. One of the reasons why I quit Atari after six years was because I wanted a normal life with a predictable schedule.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207888)

What I don't understand is why they do that anyways? It reduces code quality by introducing more bugs than necessary. 38hrs. shifts might work for truck drivers, but not for people who need to be creative the whole time. Sad, really.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208160)

I don't know about you, but *I* wouldn't want to be on the same road as a truck driver who's been going for 38 hours straight.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208225)

You already are, my friend.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15210322)

What I don't understand is why they do that anyways?

Because they're incompetent.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207891)

I can live with unpredictable schedules. It's part of my current job (when you're working in a biz where you "react" to issues that are not under your control, it's something you should expect).

What I do expect, though, is that this isn't the norm. It's something that may happen. Ok. When it becomes the standard, it's time to turn around and go elsewhere.

A good coder finds a job. A bad one should look for something else anyway.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207277)

The issue I see is that if your in a job you don't like, being it the hours, your boss, the location, or the work then why would you persist? You might as well shout out at the mountain for being between you and your goal. Instead what we end up with is people who rant on break, at lunch, or on message boards, about how bad things are yet they don't take the one step required to correct it, find another job.

I know the litany of excuses, I have used some myself. There is a comfort level even in the most impossible job that is hard to let go of. The uncertainty of a new job or the ability to find one are hard things to overcome. However if you do not take action you deserve your misery.

As for this situation being unique to the game industry, that is far from the truth. I have seen in throughout my professional career. A change in management can ruin the best of jobs. It can also take a bare bearable one and make it unbearable. The reverse is true as well. Many of us try to ride out the storm, relying on the old line of "just wait 3 years, we'll be back to X".

I'm glad they got something settled in this case, still I have to ask, why in the hell did these people stay and put up with this? Its quite possible many had no other option. Some employers rely on that. For those people there still is an option most overlook, that is learning something new that can get you out. For many that step is even harder than choosing a new employer.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207947)

There are many reasons why people stick with an unbearable job. Mortgages is one of the most obvious ones.

Also, getting a new job may be fine, but something you'll also have noticed is that hire and fire works at a LIFO principle: The newest guy is the first to go. When you've spent some time with a company, this offers you some kind of security. Some "padding" of newer guys that go first when the upper brass decides to "cut some slack" (ever noticed that it's never the real slack, i.e. managers, that gets cut... I ramble, I know).

When you are in the fortunate position that you have some nice padding in your wallet and no banks breathing down your neck, changing jobs is no issue. Screw you, slaver, I'm outta here. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (seriously, I got one of every company I worked for :)).

But there are people who can't simply toss in their keyboard and quit. They got debts, they got family, they need the security a job offers. As bad as this job may be.

Re:Game coder was my dream job (2, Informative)

computational super (740265) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208923)

Or they just stay because the've finally realized every employer is pretty much the same (and if you move too many times, you'll find that employers stop calling you back). Sort of a version of price fixing.

Did they lose, or settle? (2, Interesting)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207350)

It's not clear from TFA.. did EA actually lose a case (as in being ruled against in court of law,) or is this an out-of-court settlement?

Re:Did they lose, or settle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15207835)

Considering it says 'settlement', I think it's a settlement. If it was a judgement, they probably would have written 'judgement.'

EA_spouse's spouse is one lucky man (1)

skintigh2 (456496) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207369)

Because he's got a wife who is so supportive and caring and willing to stick with him through tough times and fight the good fight with him. Why, what did you think I was going to say? Awwwwww, nooooo, come on... get your mind out of the gutter. You should be ashamed! Pervert.

Did EA change their practices? (2, Interesting)

morryveer (870752) | more than 8 years ago | (#15207511)

So did EA change how they operate? Or did they shell out the $ as a "cost of doing business" and are continuing to overwork the poor guys? Are there any EA headcounts here that can vouch for them (either in the negative or positive)?

and, on a side note, I wonder how this affects (if at all) EA Canada.

Glad to see this (1)

stonewolf (234392) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208207)

I am glad to see programmers actually standing up on their hind feet and suing. We have been treated like crap for too long and yet we do nothing about it. Maybe someday we will get up the nerve to strike. Or, even better, form our own companies and refuse to work for abusers like EA.

Of course, it helps that they were working in California, a state where workers have rights. A lot of studios seem to be moving to Austin and other Texas towns. They are moving here for the same reason Nike has its sweat shops in 3rd world countries. No meaningful labor laws.

Now that EA has been forced to compensate programmers for overtime how long do you think it will take them to move all their programming work to states and countries where they can leagally expoloit programmers?

Stonewolf

Re:Glad to see this (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208596)

Game companies are moving to Austin because it's cheaper and there are lots of game developers already there.

Re:Glad to see this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15210145)

Well, ya, sure it's cheaper when there's no laws that force you to treat employees properly.

Slave labor was cheap too.
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