Software engineers have won a $14.9 million settlement from Electronic Arts, in a settlement of a California class-action lawsuit over unpaid overtime, following a similar $15.6 million settlement reached in October with graphic artists.
According to the new settlement, some of the entry level programmers will be reclassified as hourly workers, making them eligible for overtime pay. In return, they will be allowed a one time grant of restricted company stock, but will no longer receive stock options or bonuses.
The $14.9 settlement money will go to programmers at various levels who worked at Electronic Arts between February 14th, 2001 and February 14th, 2006. The settlement is expected to be a catalyst for changes, not only in other video games publishers and developers, but in other software companies outside of the games industry.
EA also announced that any unclaimed portion of the settlement will be go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities and to establish scholarships at five selected universities for female and under-represented minority students interested in studying interactive entertainment. The five universities are Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Georgia Tech, Stanford University, and Morehouse/Spelman College.
In the wake of the first settlement last year, Electronic Arts reclassified around 440 employees, including 200 entry level artists, so that they could claim overtime. Major deadlines were also moved to Fridays instead of Mondays in order to encourage a normal five day working week.
Following this major announcement, Silicon Valley newspaper the San Jose Mercury News has published an article revealing the identity of the much-discussed EA_Spouse to be Erin Hoffman, the then-fiancee of Electronic Arts programmer Leander Hasty, one of the specifically named plaintiffs in the employment-related lawsuits against EA. He filed the suit after experiencing extreme 'crunch time' developing Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth at Electronic Arts Los Angeles.
The two are now married, and work together in Troy, New York as designer and programmer respectively at independent developer 1st Playable Productions, and are working on website Gamewatch.org to help discuss and monitor problems with working conditions in the game industry.