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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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