Electronic Arts has agreed to pay a USD 15.6 million settlement to former and current graphic artists who filed suit against the company for unpaid overtime.
The class action lawsuit was filed by EA employee Jamie Kirshenbaum and a group of his colleagues in July 2004. Kirshenbaum claimed that EA had "improperly classified some of its employees, including 'animators,' 'modelers,' 'texture artists,' 'lighters,' 'background effects artists,' and 'environmental artists' as exempt from overtime, and therefore failed to pay those employees overtime compensation."
Kirshenbaum's lawyers set out to establish a "class" that was entitled to claim back pay from Electronic Arts. Now that the publisher's settlement offer has been accepted the case is dismissed, but the debate over the demands publishers make of their development teams will doubtless continue.
The USD 15.6 million payment will be distributed amongst all class members and their lawyers. Any remaining portion of the settlement which is not claimed will be donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides scholarships and support for ethnic minority students.
EA has faced a barrage of negative publicity for its alleged poor treatment of staff, and not just as a result of Kirshenbaum's lawsuit. Many blogs by EA staff and their families have claimed that employees are expected to work ridiculously long hours for no reward. The most famous of these is probably by "EA Spouse", an article which caught the attention of the media was featured in publications such as the New York Times.