A former programmer made redundant at Codemasters Guildford says he is ready to take his former employer all the way to court after making several allegations about crunch and overtime.
Semi Essessi, who was employed at the Codemasters studio for thirteen months until it closed in November, claims to have worked at least 400 hours overtime without pay.
He has provided documents that appear to show he worked from 10am until midnight on Friday 17th of June last year, and has other figures which suggest this was not an isolated issue.
A Codemasters source has told Develop that these work periods were voluntary, and has claimed that Essessi himself knew these periods of overtime were unpaid.
“We didn’t force him to work these hours,” the source said. “People were not chained to their desks.”
Essessi told Develop that he accepts he was not aware of the particular HR procedures for making a formal suggestion that overtime should be paid.
He said that, when in the midst of an intensive period finishing work on the Bodycount project, he had made numerous verbal suggestions that overtime should be paid.
“I just wasn’t aware of the formal procedure at the time,” he said, “and I thought I was going to work there for a while. I had no idea the studio was going to close.”
Codemasters Guildford shut down in November last year, following dismal sales of its FPS Bodycount.
Essessi’s solicitor has since advised that Codemasters had failed to adhere to European laws on working hours and break periods.
“I’m absolutely certain this will end in an employment tribunal, and I really don’t mind,” Essessi told Develop.
“There’s not anything that can stop this happening now. I’m just so angry about how Codemasters has treated myself and other staff.”
The Working Time Directive is an EU law which enforces that staff are entitled to paid breaks, as well as a rest of at least 11 hours per 24-hour periods. It also rules that businesses enforce a 48-hour cap on working weeks.
Essessi said he is unsure whether he waived his rights to this directive when signing a contract with Codemasters.
Codemasters’ dispute with Essessi is further complicated by a separate issue where the publisher appears to have accidently paid staff an additional month’s pay.
Former workers have many theories for the extra payment, Essessi said. He claimed that some believed that being paid an extra month was normal procedure, though Essessi himself alleged on his blog that the wages amounted to ‘hush money’ over the alleged working conditions.
A Codemasters source, who claims to have had contacts at Guildford, told Develop that some staff knew the overpayment was a clear administrative error.
Codemasters has since asked staff to repay the wage sums. Many already have, Develop understands, while a few like Essessi have contested the repayment and others have not made contact with the publisher.
A legal client for the publisher has issued letters to some staff, demanding the money be returned.
Essessi told Develop he is willing to repay the sum, though in broken monthly payments far smaller than Codemasters is suggesting.
"The company has been, and continues to be, in dialogue with Essessi regarding the reimbursement of funds paid into his account following an administrative error, as it is entitled to,” read a Codemasters statement sent to Develop.
“As the conversation regarding his personal situation is ongoing, the company has not pursued it as a legal matter with him.”
Essessi has been writing a blog about his experience with Codemasters. In the interests of balance Develop has not linked to it.