NEWS - Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Vivendi Getting Sued By Overworked Programmer

Potentially pulling the lid off some of the more unpleasant realities of making games, a Vivendi Universal Games programmer has filed suit against the company claiming unfair overtime payment practices, Reuters news service reports today. Neil Aitken, an application programmer for Vivendi since February of 2000 (working for developer Knowledge Adventure), claims that managers ordered him and his colleagues to falsify timesheets to read that they worked 40-hour weeks, when in fact they worked 12 hours a day or more, both weekdays and weekends, on a regular basis. "Specifically," the suit reads, "VUG managers have instructed Nonexempt Programmers to enter 8 hours for each workday regardless of the actual number of hours worked by an employee." It seeks payment of back overtime wages, plus other damages. Vivendi Universal representatives offered no immediate rebuttal to the suit, citing a policy of avoiding comment on pending litigation. "Crunch time," wherein development staff put in periods of severe overtime to get a game out the door, is one of the long-accepted realities of game development. Often, salaried development staff are compensated with profit participation after a game is released, rather than overtime pay delivered before its completion. The International Game Developers Association lately published a quality of life survey examining the problem, determining that 35% of respondents worked 65 to 80 hours per week during the crunch period for a game, and 13% worked more than 80 hours per week. 46.8% of respondents to the survey said their overtime was uncompensated.


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