The death march

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ob1
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The death march

Post by ob1 » Sat May 28, 2011 6:45 am

ArsTechnica wrote an extensive article about the working conditions of employees in the video game industry.
Insanely awesome.
Editors stole our dream, abused our passion to turn us into modern slaves.
http://arst.ch/pns

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Post by TmEE co.(TM) » Sat May 28, 2011 7:30 am

Such kind of overtime is illegal in here, you only have certain amount of overtime hours per week, and those hours require higher pay aswell... though it can still happen when the employee will not complain.
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Post by Flygon » Sat May 28, 2011 8:45 am

Reading this ended up getting me to think of the comparisons between video games and movies.

Specifically, from my understanding, the amount of effort needed to get a movie going increases linearly the more work that needs to be done, whereas the amount of effort for games increases quadratically (the more detailed and longer running the game, the more testing it needs, RPGs are the prime candidate of this, looking at you Pier Solar).

Of course, I've done absolutely no research regarding these ramblings (and essentially mirrored the Linear Wariors, Quadratic Wizards problem), but they just voice my opinion. As games have gotten larger and more complex, the amount of effort required to keep up in the race has exponentially increased high enough to almost outpace the capabilities of the developers.
Last edited by Flygon on Sun May 29, 2011 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Chilly Willy » Sat May 28, 2011 9:37 pm

TmEE co.(TM) wrote:Such kind of overtime is illegal in here, you only have certain amount of overtime hours per week, and those hours require higher pay aswell... though it can still happen when the employee will not complain.
Overtime only applies if you work by the hour. Salaried employees are paid by the JOB, not the hour. There is no such thing as overtime - if they can get the work done in 4 hours, they've got time on their hands, but if it takes 20 hours, that's what the job requires. Most software developers are salaried, not paid by the hour. If publishers had to pay by the hour, they'd go broke since EVERY software development project in EVERY area requires "overtime" at some point. I've NEVER seen a single software project that was finished on time without at least one crunch period.

TascoDLX
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Re: The death march

Post by TascoDLX » Sun May 29, 2011 8:17 am

ob1 wrote:Editors stole our dream, abused our passion to turn us into modern slaves.
Slaves? No, not even close.
Chilly Willy wrote:Overtime only applies if you work by the hour. Salaried employees are paid by the JOB, not the hour. There is no such thing as overtime - if they can get the work done in 4 hours, they've got time on their hands, but if it takes 20 hours, that's what the job requires.
You're describing the role of an independent contractor, not a salaried employee. True, independent contractors are not legally covered for overtime in the U.S. However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, salaried employees are entitled to paid overtime (time-and-a-half) so long as they are not deemed exempt.

Of course, game developers are exempt, generally because they are paid at least $24K (in California, at least $34K, I believe) and are employed as either "creative professionals" or "computer employees" (which includes programmers, software engineers, and the like).

Bottom line: unless employees are being lost to illness at an unbearable rate, I can't see many employers cutting hours on a hunch. To them, limiting hours just leads to more hires, thus higher costs. It seems like it's been this way for a while. Better start bargaining with the man.

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Post by GManiac » Sun May 29, 2011 10:33 am

they are paid at least $24K (in California, at least $34K, I believe)
For month or for year? :) In first case it's very high cost, but in second case it's not normal for such loaded work, imho.

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Post by TascoDLX » Sun May 29, 2011 12:04 pm

GManiac wrote:For month or for year? :)
Think you can earn $24K per month?!? Sure... go ahead and dream big! (Just don't wake up -- you'll be very disappointed.)

Certainly, it's a yearly salary. The $24K limit appears to be comfortably low in this industry. To put it in perspective, the average game dev's salary is reportedly $80K. Even full-time QA (testers) average about $50K, now.

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Post by Chilly Willy » Sun May 29, 2011 11:30 pm

If you don't punch a time clock, you aren't being paid by the hour, you're a salaried employee and overtime doesn't apply to you. Period. Overtime requires tracking the exact hours you work, and that requires a time clock you punch in and out on everyday. I've never even heard of a programmer who punched a time clock. Maybe there are some, but it would be rare.

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Post by TascoDLX » Mon May 30, 2011 3:23 am

Chilly Willy wrote:If you don't punch a time clock, you aren't being paid by the hour, you're a salaried employee and overtime doesn't apply to you. Period.
Under the FLSA, an employer is not legally required to track the actual hours worked by exempt employees. For the reasons I mentioned earlier, game development employees are often exempt. As an exempt employee, your employer need only keep on record the time parameters that define your workweek (for such purposes as leave time accounting).

If you are a salaried employee and your work hours aren't being recorded by any means (either by clock, timesheet, timekeeper, etc.), I highly recommend you confirm your FLSA exempt status. If you are not exempt in that case, your employer is breaking the law. Period.

EDIT
Help yourself to some more info: The FLSA's Most Common Pitfalls

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Post by Chilly Willy » Mon May 30, 2011 9:41 pm

You CLEARLY didn't read the section on time clocks...
Some employers fail to strictly follow the FLSA's recordkeeping requirements, found in Part 516 of DOL's wage and hour regulations (Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations). Among other things, those regulations require employers to maintain detailed records of hours worked by each non-exempt employee. An employer that allows employees to keep their own time records is only asking for trouble. For instance, if an employee files a wage claim for unpaid overtime, and the employer has no time records to dispute the employee's own records showing that overtime was worked, the DOL and the courts will accept the employee's records as valid under what is known as the "best evidence" rule, unless there is a good reason to doubt the credibility of such records. Another problem will occur if the DOL audits the employer for compliance with the FLSA; part of any compliance audit is an inspection of the required records, and non-existent records may be cause for further DOL action.
SOMEONE has to be tracking the hours, and if the employee does it and hits their boss with it, you can bet the boss will put in their own time clock, and/or fire said employee. Again, if you don't punch a time clock (be it your own or the companies), you aren't being paid by the hour.

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Post by TascoDLX » Tue May 31, 2011 6:54 am

Chilly Willy wrote:SOMEONE has to be tracking the hours, and if the employee does it and hits their boss with it, you can bet the boss will put in their own time clock, and/or fire said employee.
You refer to this statement:
Among other things, those regulations require employers to maintain detailed records of hours worked by each non-exempt employee.
So, if you are a NON-EXEMPT employee then, by law, your employer must keep track of your hours worked. I'll gladly go over the exemption bit again because it's a very important distinction.
Chilly Willy wrote:Again, if you don't punch a time clock (be it your own or the companies), you aren't being paid by the hour.
In general, I agree. Although, note that the law allows for tracking hours by other means. But, I agree that there is no basis for employees tracking their own hours, which is why this is usually a checked process.

However, whether or not you are being paid by the hour does not determine if you are exempt. The FLSA provides an exemption "for any employee employed in a bona fide professional capacity," as well as "for computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, and other similarly skilled computer employees," among others.

The qualifications for exemption are covered in Part 541 of Title 29 CFR. Here's what it says regarding exemptions for "professional" employees:
§ 541.300 General rule for professional employees.

(a) The term “employee employed in a bona fide professional capacity” in section 13(a)(1) of the Act shall mean any employee:

(1) Compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week (or $380 per week, if employed in American Samoa by employers other than the Federal Government), exclusive of board, lodging, or other facilities; and

(2) Whose primary duty is the performance of work:


(i) Requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction; or

(ii) Requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.

(b) The term “salary basis” is defined at §541.602; “fee basis” is defined at §541.605; “board, lodging or other facilities” is defined at §541.606; and “primary duty” is defined at §541.700.
The specific qualifications for a creative professional are described in §541.302. As for the term, "salary basis":
§ 541.602 Salary basis.

(a) General rule. An employee will be considered to be paid on a “salary basis” within the meaning of these regulations if the employee regularly receives each pay period on a weekly, or less frequent basis, a predetermined amount constituting all or part of the employee's compensation, which amount is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed.
Under the current labor laws, it is entirely possible for a salaried employee (even one whose salary exceeds a rate of $455 per week) to fail to meet any other qualifications for exemption and therefore be entitled to overtime pay, in which case the employer must keep track of the non-exempt employee's hours worked.

Now, here's how overtime is calculated for a salaried employee. A non-exempt salaried employee's overtime pay (at time-and-a-half) is determined based on his or her regular rate of pay. Overtime is defined as hours worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek. In simplified terms, regular rate of pay is calculated as weekly pay divided by hours worked in a particular week.

Here's an example:

Joe receives an annual salary of $13k, so his weekly rate is $13k / 52 = $250 (assuming 52 workweeks per year). If Joe works 50 hours this week, his regular rate of pay is $250 / 50 = $5. So, his total pay for this week will be $5 * (40 + 1.5 * (50 - 40)) = $275. This can be considered a minimum; employers may agree to use other methods to calculate overtime, such as straight-time pay.

Also note that, as a salaried employee, Joe cannot be paid less than $250 for a given week based on his hours worked unless he misses the whole week. However, if there is a written agreement between Joe and his employer regarding missed time, that agreement will instead be the determining factor.

While I'm citing Federal regulations, here's the part on exemption of "computer employees":
§ 541.400 General rule for computer employees.

(a) Computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers or other similarly skilled workers in the computer field are eligible for exemption as professionals under section 13(a)(1) of the Act and under section 13(a)(17) of the Act. Because job titles vary widely and change quickly in the computer industry, job titles are not determinative of the applicability of this exemption.

(b) The section 13(a)(1) exemption applies to any computer employee compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week (or $380 per week, if employed in American Samoa by employers other than the Federal Government), exclusive of board, lodging or other facilities, and the section 13(a)(17) exemption applies to any computer employee compensated on an hourly basis at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour. In addition, under either section 13(a)(1) or section 13(a)(17) of the Act, the exemptions apply only to computer employees whose primary duty consists of:

(1)
The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;

(2) The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications;

(3) The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or

(4)
A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.
Notice how this section provides for the exemption of employees that are being paid on an hourly basis. So, it is also entirely possible for an employee earning hourly wages to be exempt from overtime pay.

To reiterate, if your hours worked are not being recorded and you are often working more than 40 hours per week (salaried or not), it would behoove you to make sure you are in fact exempt from overtime pay.

For reference:
29 USC Ch. 8 (The Fair Labor Standards Act)
29 CFR 541 - Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer and Outside Sales Employees

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Post by mic_ » Tue May 31, 2011 3:14 pm

Most software developers are salaried, not paid by the hour. If publishers had to pay by the hour, they'd go broke since EVERY software development project in EVERY area requires "overtime" at some point. I've NEVER seen a single software project that was finished on time without at least one crunch period.
In Sweden things work a lot different. Those of us who work as SW developers get paid by the hour, just like pretty much everyone else. There probably are people who get paid by the job/project, but I've never met anyone with that kind of contract. Overtime pays 1.5x, and weekend work pays 2x. I think we have a limit on accumulated overtime hours (100 iirc) before you have to start using those hours (i.e. going home early or taking entire days off).

Of course, unless you work loads and loads of overtime you'll make a lot less money here than someone in the U.S. If you're fresh out of school with a CS degree you might get $58k/year gross (ball-park figure). On the other hand we get 25 paid vacation days/year.

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