May 17, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

More overtime tussles for tech companies?

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families, making them more eager to leave the office in time for dinner at home. Employees throughout the industry also may feel less loyal after the wave of job cuts that came with the dot-com collapse and as some jobs move offshore. What's more, the financial incentive to sleep under one's desk has ebbed in the post-Internet bubble era.

Gildea said tech workers should be glad to get overtime pay: "I don't know why people wouldn't want to get the premium pay they're entitled to under federal law--for the sake of what? To identify as elite professionals?"

Well, yes, Tarter suggested. He said the wisest policy for software tech support departments probably is to assume that employees are eligible for overtime--but that's not necessarily what techies want. "Tech support employees don't like being called hourly workers," Tarter said. "That's seen as applying to checkout workers at Wal-Mart."

The recent rash of overtime suits in the game industry, and California's labor rules, could well backfire, EA spokesman Jeff Brown warned. He said higher labor costs could push the company to move more of its work out of the state, to places including a new studio being built in China.

"This isn't a problem (just) for EA," Brown said. "This is a problem for the state of California."

Tom Buscaglia, an attorney who founded an organization to increase the presence of the game industry in Florida, might be expected to cheer an exodus of companies from California. But he doubts that game makers would reduce their exposure to overtime lawsuits much by simply moving work across the country. Most of the workers being added to make large teams for state-of-the-art games are developers doing assembly line-type graphics and animation tasks, who would be eligible for overtime, he said.

Overall, Buscaglia estimated that with games under development for the next generation of consoles, as many as 50 percent of developers could be eligible for overtime.

To him, the lawsuits are a wake-up call for the game industry to switch to more reasonable hours and to keep talented people from leaving the industry. "Ultimately, it makes for better games," he said. "And it makes for a better lifestyle for the people who make them."

But Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America trade group, has a grimmer view. Moving to more of a 9-to-5, clock-punching culture will hurt the country's computer sector, he argues.

"One of the strengths of the tech industry has been that there has not been a lot of we-against-they mentality regarding labor and management," Miller said. "You run the risk of losing the collaborative relationship that has been so productive."

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<sigh> exploitation.
the fact that software developers are exploited is old news; the integrity we expect mgmt to exercise regarding long hours is rarely seen. two weeks extra vacation is fair... if you worked an extra 80 hours that year. if you worked an extra 1000 hours, well, three months off would be more like it.

i wouldn't mind being hourly, honestly, because the work-life balance isn't being respected and time for training is never available. therefore, mgmt hasn't kept its part of the bargain, so give me the money.

Posted by Remo_Williams (488 comments )
Reply Link Flag
well said
where do these "reports" get their sample population from?? Unless you're a pup fresh out of college, 6-12 months of that cycle will have you begging for hourly wages. You'd probably even take a pay cut. That lifestyle SUCKS. People get burned out and start taking uzis to work with them. And you're right, when do I get to enjoy my earnings? when i'm dead? when do I get the chance to advance my skill set through learning? on the job? please. that's the CEO's of this world feeding you their Kool-aid. and it's further contributing to the extinction of the middle class.

Seems to me the tech professional is paying for the management mistakes of the tech boom.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Link Flag
<i>Under the computer exemption, employers don't have to pay overtime to workers who meet certain conditions. Those workers must:

" earn at least $27.63 an hour--roughly $57,450 for a year's worth of 40-hour weeks, if compensated on an hourly basis; or

" earn at least $455 per week--which translates to about $23,650 annually, if compensated on a salary or fee basis; and

" in either case, be employed as a computer systems analyst, programmer, software engineer or similarly skilled worker in the field.

How are these two even comparable???? Salaried employee at $24,000 and an hourly employee at $57,000???? No wonder the system is screwed up. I hope this was a typo. Otherwise, we may want to impeach everyone in the department of labor.

I'll tell you exactly what this did. It took the tech support industry and turned it into factory workers, no more like supermarket cashiers. They pay a slightly skilled person a salary of $22,000 and force feed them onto their customers(us) as part of their "service" force. I worked with a girl who spoke 3 languages who made $22,000 for software support. Never got any overtime, and she was always mysteriously under probation when review time came around---ie no merit increase. She was later pushed out by some second year college kid who was kept during a "restructuring".

Companies started preparing for this 3 years ago, and that's when the offshoring truly took off. Even paid service sucks. When you pay for service and support, you're still getting less than skilled employees.

Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
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My question would be....
Why is an exemption necessary for computer-oriented employees?

Does it seem odd to anyone to have an exemption targeted at a specific group like that?
Posted by (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
possible reason
I guess the justification is that, as opposed to an assembly line, where if you're on the line then you must be actively working, a programmer can sit at his/her screen and stare (not considered actively working) at code. Maybe we need some way to show brain activity, that way you'll know when someone is actively thinking about the project at hand.
Posted by bit-looter (51 comments )
Link Flag
Thank You All
On behalf of Mr. Aitken and my entire office, I would like to thank the readers who have taken the time to contact my office with messages of support. We have been amazed by the number of people who have offered to help in any way that they can.

At present, our most pressing need is to talk with people who have witnessed the conduct at issue in this case. Specifically, we are interviewing people who have worked as programmers at Blizzard and other subsidiaries of Vivendi Universal Games.

If you have any questions regarding this lawsuit, please visit our website at, or contact me at
Posted by (2 comments )
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Careful what you ask for....
I have worked for the same company for 7 years, make around 60k, and work(ed) on average 60-70 hrs a week. I agreed to a salaried status when I was hired, Meaning to me the target was 40 hours a week but could be more and may be less. The one advantage I had was I was responsible for a certain amount of work not a certain amount of time. Start when I wanted, stop when I wanted, attend meetings and meet the deadline. My company has decided better safe than sorry and made us all non-exempt. All this legislation has done for me is chained me to a desk from this time to this time, and screwed me out of the bonuses I have enjoyed in the past. I earned those bonuses by putting in the extra hours to turn out some important item overnight.

I am Miracle Man. Miracle Man loves his job. Miracle man hates timesheets. Miracle Man hates the government messing with an agreement between myself and my employer. &and Miracle Man cannot stand whiney people who dont remember what they agreed to when they took the job. Dont like what you got? Go someplace else.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why if I am a 'Tech' worker am I not entitled to overtime. What retard in the Federal Gov't decided to exempt my long hours and offer me some lame title. If you are going to compensate me alternatively, then so be it. If I agree to it.

Hell, if I am going to line your pockets and not make the pay for hours I put into it, then give me a cut of the sales. We'll see how long that would last....quit ******** and spread the wealth!
Posted by 202567676114204908075970046337 (26 comments )
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I should be paid for what I work.....
That is what I think. Salaries are the biggest scam ever to grace the face of this planet. Period. Even the best justification that I've ever heard about salaries can't claim that people who work overtime aren't getting screwed. And for those who claim that it keeps paychecks from falling below a certain level because what would happen if you didn't work 40 hours a week. There hasn't been a single job over the years when I've been hourly where I didn't have a set x to x schedule. If someone is screwing you over for hours that too is the fault of the employer. Today is all about how much a company can save and put towards profits. **** the worker if it means Wallstreet can see a better bottom line.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
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