Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
flash_artist

When a company screws you

This topic is 3624 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

I recently worked for a real slimeball game developer who totally screwed me and many other employees. A month or two ago several of the key management resigned, apparently out of disgust for the business operations of the company, and shortly thereafter, almost the entire staff either quit or was laid off. Many of us were left in the lurch, and are owed weeks and even months of pay. Some of the people who stayed had their insurance canceled without notice, and weren't even notified! I know for a fact that there are still people working there who have not been paid for months of work, but are staying on board in the hopes of being caught up so that they can pay their rent. Meanwhile, the company is flying its bizdev people to every other conference in the world, paying for them to stay at expensive hotels, eat at nice restaurants, and shmooz everybody at the parties. The horror stories of working for this company could fill volumes! What is the best thing to do here? There are quite a group of us who are owed money, but many of us are Canadian, and this is an American company. At this point I'm pretty sure I'll never see the money, but I'm hoping there is some recourse. Is there some sort of games industry ethics committee or something that could do something. Does anyone have a suggestion about what to do?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
As far as I know there is nothing you can do besides sue. Try to get as much documentation of hours worked\lack of pay as possible. You need proof and a lawyer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by flash_artist
Is there some sort of games industry ethics committee or something that could do something.

No, of course not! Like the other guy said, this is a legal matter. See if other ex-employees are willing to join in on getting a lawyer and opening a class action suit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by flash_artist
I recently worked for a real slimeball game developer who totally screwed me and many other employees...

What is the best thing to do here?


Been there, done that, etc. (And then some.) Herewith my own, hard-won, Rules of Employment:

Rule #0: Businesses cultivate loyalty in their employees.

Loyalty helps a business because it keeps their employees from walking away. When someone leaves, a replacement must be found (which costs money in itself: all those interviews take people away from their work). Then that replacement must be trained in the company's own procedures and brought up to speed. That can be anything from a few hours to a few *weeks*. The longer it takes, the less replaceable you are and the more the business tries to encourage loyalty.

Do not let this sense of loyalty affect your common sense. This is a *business*, not a member of your family!


Rule #1: Money flows to the employee. When it stops flowing, it's time to go.

The sole purpose of any business is to make money. If the business isn't making money, they're doing it wrong!. Period. You therefore have clear and blatant evidence that your boss(es) are incompetent. You are in no way obliged to keep them afloat. Your *time* is worth money. Your *knowledge* is worth money. Don't just piss both away.

Do NOT, under any circumstances, stay for the sake of empty promises. If the company can't afford to pay you now, there's no logical reason to assume they'll suddenly work out how to run a business properly within a month or two and magically pluck all that back-pay off a convenient money tree for you.


Rule #2: Find a new job before leaving your old one.

This rule can be waived when your old one is no longer paying you, although it helps if you're living in a country with some form of social welfare safety net.

*

Run, don't walk, as far away from your present employers as you can. The only people who win in a courtroom are lawyers. Canada has a massive games development industry, thanks to some nifty tax breaks, so you've got a good chance of finding work. (British developers are screaming at their government for similar breaks; the French already have some in place.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Too bad you weren't aware of the complexities of the labor laws in the US before you started working for them and so now you are pretty much out of luck unless the company cares about it's image which it most likely doesn't from what you say they are doing to their employees?
Oh well next time you will quit right away next time and realize they are screwing you over before it is too late!
You can try going the lawyer route but I'd try to avoid that unless you don't mind long drawn out legal cases as the current Wal-Mart case shows:

Wal-Mart has been tied up in several states in class action lawsuits by its employees who say they are owed money for unpaid work.

* In California, workers won a $172 million judgment against Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is appealing the judgment. No surprise there.


* In Pennsylvania, workers won a $78.5 million judgment last year. Wal-Mart is appealing the judgment. Of course.


* In Colorado, Wal-Mart settled a class action for $50 million. It's not over until Wal-Mart says it's over.

Wal-Mart is now facing more than 70 labor related lawsuits across the U.S. The difficulty facing the Wal-Mart employees is that the labor laws are state laws, and these laws vary a little or a lot from state to state. So a judgment in one state may not act as much of a precedent to follow in another state.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There's two things here. One is "the best thing to do", which I'll address in a second post.

The other is the issue of "creative accounting" is a fairly serious legal issue.

It is called "fraud".



There are several additional places you should contact. Even if you don't get a lawyer to help you get your money (which you should do), these agencies can help you out. Some, like the IRS, even offer huge cash rewards if your info helps them bust the company for fraud.




The IRS is very aggressive for tax evasion from wrongfully-unpaid or improperly withheld payroll taxes. Generally the 'creative accounting' extends to other areas. Get an appointment to discuss it at your local IRS office, bring all your pay stubs and any other information and proof about when the paychecks stopped and when you stopped working. Be prepared with any other information about shady business practices. The IRS pays out millions of dollars every year to 'whistleblowers' who initially report fraud.


While you're at it, contact the state's and city's tax offices. Chances are good that they're also not reporting taxes on the disputed wages to local government. Local tax people hate not getting money even more than the federal government, so they'll be very interested.




Next, find the state's department that handles employment and employee/employer relations. It might be called the labor commission, or labor department, or workforce services, or something else -- just call around and explain the problem until you find the right agency. Assuming the company is still is pretty good standing with the state, they might be able to help you recover the wages.


This might be a little tougher if you don't have the information. Find out who the company uses for unemployment insurance. This should have been posted along with all the other mandatory federal and state postings in the lunchroom that people don't read. Contact them directly, tell them you want to report suspected fraud, and explain the situation.



Even though this is an incestuous business and you are likely to work with some of the same coworkers again, there is absolutely no excuse for companies to engage in fraud. Several co-workers have horror stories of having to sue their former employers for paychecks, and almost all of them got their money in small claims courts. You might even need to go to a collections agency if the court sides with you, but if you tell this to the court, the judge will likely force the company to pay the collection agency's fees in addition to your own.


A second post in a few minutes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The second issue is "what to do now?"

If you are still employed:
* Don't do anything stupid while you are still there. This is a common mistake. Remember that while you are there, you are still an employee and you still depend on them.
* Lay low while attempting to get a job elsewhere. Suck it up, put in the extra time, and don't actually jump ship yet.
* Remember the stuff I mentioned in the previous message? Be careful that you don't start the investigations until AFTER you're ready to move on. Although they can't directly retaliate against you for reporting suspected fraud, they can sure make life miserable and push the envelope of what is not quite retalition.
* Don't burn bridges with co-workers, including your supervisors. You don't have a fight with the individuals, only with the corporate payroll process.
* Get a job elsewhere. NOW.
* Try to find good, legitimate ways to get letters of recommendation. This might be getting a letter from somebody who is just about to, or has already, left the company.


If you're no longer employed:
* Contact the state's unemployment office if you haven't already.
* Don't hold a grudge. It won't help you.
* Move on, and assume that you will never see a penny of the lost money.
* Contact all the people I mentioned in the previous post. Remember the "don't be stupid" rule, and don't make people upset with you directly. It's okay if they hate the IRS. It's bad if they hate you.


Again, good luck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by stimarco
The sole purpose of any business is to make money.
The sole purpose of any commercial organization is to satisfy the economic needs and wants of individuals (i.e., consumers.) Profit and equity, which are only a result of the tax structure of commercial entities, merely incentivize the process of delivering on that purpose.

Yes, there are businesses that appear to exist solely for private inurement; however, these ventures can be considered, kindly put, to be malfunctioning, whether due to mismanagement or other factors. Perpetuating the idea that all firms are alike in that way hurts everyone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
frob, I've read in a few places that whistleblowing can kill any chance you have at having a career. It's a horrible stigma to have, and it can be tough to find worthwhile employment after that, because you are seen as an un-loyal, snitch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

Participate in the game development conversation and more when you create an account on GameDev.net!

Sign me up!