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EA considers changing rules on overtime payments

An internal memo from EA's senior vice president of human resources Rusty Rueff to staff at the company has revealed that the firm is contemplating a change to how it classifies jobs with regard to overtime eligibility.

An internal memo from EA's senior vice president of human resources Rusty Rueff to staff at the company has revealed that the firm is contemplating a change to how it classifies jobs with regard to overtime eligibility.

The memo, which was distributed to staff at the leading publisher's worldwide offices earlier this week, is the most direct response yet seen to the flood of negative reports about the company's treatment of employees which emerged last month.

"As much as I don't like what's been said about our company and our industry, I recognize that at the heart of the matter is a core truth," Reuff admits in the memo. "The work is getting harder, the tasks are more complex and the hours needed to accomplish them have become a burden. We haven't yet cracked the code on how to fully minimize the crunches in the development and production process. Net, there are things we just need to fix."

The memo goes on to outline a number of changes already being made at the studios which Reuff hopes will improve the situation, including the move to using Criterion's RenderWare technology throughout the company, stronger preproduction discipline on projects, and a project to improve the efficiency of the development process management.

The real meat of the memo, however, lies in a section dealing with the classification of employees with regard to overtime - a sticking point which has led to a potential class action lawsuit being filed against the company by one of its employees in California.

"We are looking at reclassifying some jobs to overtime eligible in the new Fiscal Year," Reuff informs staff in the memo. "We have resisted this in the past, not because we don't want to pay overtime, but because we believe that the wage and hour laws have not kept pace with the kind of work done at technology companies, the kind of employees those companies attract and the kind of compensation packages their employees prefer."

"We consider our artists to be creative people and our engineers to be skilled professionals who relish flexibility but others use the outdated wage and hour laws to argue in favor of a workforce that is paid hourly like more traditional industries and conforming to set schedules," he continues. "But we can't wait for the legislative process to catch up so we're forced to look at making some changes to exempt and non-exempt classifications."

Reuff continues the memo by observing that Electronic Arts is breaking new ground by being the first entertainment software company ever to grow to its size, pointing out that this means that the firm is having to learn every day. "We experiment, we learn from our mistakes, we adapt and we grow," he comments.

"Most important: we recognize that this doesn't get fixed with one email or in one month. It's an on-going process of communication and change," he concludes. "With some smart thinking and specific actions we will fix these issues and become stronger as a company."

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Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.