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Codemasters demands money from laid off employees
Codemasters demands money from laid off employees
January 17, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi

Former employees of Codemasters' now-defunct Guildford studio are being asked to return pay that the company claims was based on a miscalculation.

Sources formerly employed by the studio behind last year's Bodycount tell Gamasutra that a month following the completion of the game and the closure of the studio, they received letters from the company asking for money due to what it calls an "overpayment" in each worker's final paycheck.

According to a letter sent to at least two employees by a law firm representing Codemasters, the amount paid to the employees was a "mistake." The letter goes on to threaten the employees with legal proceedings should they not return the money quickly.

According to one of our sources, who has since gone public, many employees assumed the extra amount on their checks was due to the company reevaluating its overtime payment policy after its legality was brought into question.

"Everyone had received a bit extra and after lots of pub discussion the overriding opinion was that they had seen sense and decided to pay us all bit extra to keep us quiet about just how illegally the studio had been running," said Semi Essessi, one of the affected developers.

"[My final paycheck] was actually a bit more than I was expecting, but I didn't think anything of it," another affected employee tells us. "I thought maybe, perhaps I had miscalculated, and I left it at that."

According to Essessi, the working conditions at Guildford violated the European Working Time Directive. Specifically, Essessi claims that he and other employees continuously got less than the 11 required hours of rest within 24 hour periods due to labor conditions, and that many did not get a required 24 straight hours of rest without work. In fact, one weekly snapshot from the company's internal tracker shows Essessi clocking in for over 83 hours in a five-day work week.

Essessi later wrote that while he never expected to receive overtime payment, he does feel that he is "entitled to some compensation for having my rights as a citizen of the UK and EU violated."

Codemasters has not responded to Gamasutra's attempts to receive clarification. The company did however issue a statement to British consumer website Eurogamer, which ignored Essessi's allegations, saying only that it was "in open dialogue with Semi" and that it has not yet pursued legal action for the return of its money.

For his part, Essessi has agreed to repay the money Codemasters feels it is owed, though in a note dated January 12 he told the company that he plans "to do everything in [his] power to reveal just how unreasonable Codemasters is being in this matter to the wider public."

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Daneel Filimonov
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Reading the blog post, and the comments; it saddens me that such companies (or the certain people who work in them) could ever exist (and in fact, do exist). It's good to see the employees are at least fighting back.

Jane Castle
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CodeMasters = SlaveMasters

Jordan Laine
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This is what Codemasters should be saying...

Ken Nakai
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Everytime I hear about crap like this I just don't get it. I guess it's a bit like Hollywood where there are just so many people willing to take the seat of someone who would rather work "normal" hours, that everyone just accepts this sort of illegal bullshit and doesn't do anything about it. If there were just enough companies that mandate realistic hours and do their best to streamline the internal production process a bit and, when it happens, just allow for the fact that launch dates might have to be moved, everyone good would work there and make great games and the seat fillers with little experience would help those crappy companies go bankrupt. I know that might mean people lose jobs when those companies go bankrupt but then there are plenty of people to start better companies that don't.

Meanwhile in the tech/software industry, pulling that sort of shit would result in you not having any employees and you either producing a poor product (and thus going bankrupt) or you having to outsource or find someone to build your product (probably won't go bankrupt but you won't make as much money). Not to say there aren't really crappy software products out there...

In the end, overworked and tired employees result in low productivity and performance which just exacerbates the problem. Instead, work a bit longer but never past 12 hours and always ensure breaks are possible and you'll get more productivity out of your employees in fewer hours.

Oh, and don't fire them just because you finished a title...jeez...all that lost experience and wisdom just because you want to save a few dollars...