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Ex-Codemasters dev claims staff 'horribly mistreated'

Laid-off Bodycount workers being threatened with bankruptcy proceedings, it's claimed

A former Codemasters programmer has accused the publisher or operating "illegally" and threatening sacked staff with bankruptcy proceedings after it "mistakenly" overpaid them.

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Semi Essessi, who worked on last year's troubled FPS Bodycount, claims in a blog post that after shutting down the Guildford studio Codemasters overlooked hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime promised to staff.

Furthermore, Essessi claims that Codemasters unlawfully "never provided me with a pay statement on or before my pay day", and that it breached its legal duty to ensure employees receive "11 hours rest in any given 24 hour period".

[UPDATE: Codemasters has released a statement: "The company has been, and continues to be, in open dialogue with Semi regarding the reimbursement of funds paid into his account following an administrative error, as it is entitled to.

"As the conversation regarding his personal situation is ongoing, the company has not, as alleged, pursued it as a legal matter with him. The company's advisers are now aware of the additional comments that Semi has published and these will be addressed with him directly through the appropriate channels as necessary."]

Essessi's blog reads: "When I received my final pay from Codemasters I was a pretty happy man, I had received a pretty substantial extra sum - It wasn't quite the amount of money I was owed for unpaid overtime, but it was something.

"Everyone had received a bit extra and after lots of pub discussion the overriding opinion was that they had seen sense and decided to pay us all bit extra to keep us quiet about just how illegally the studio had been running."

He continues: "What happened the following month though was a complete shock and surprise - I received a voicemail and e-mail explaining that there had been a mistake and I had accidentally been paid an extra months salary! What's more (and this is on 15th Dec.) I had until 20th Dec to return the money."

With a second deadline passed, Essessi claims he and others received a letter from Codemasters' lawyers warning that, if they fail to return the overpaid amount by January 20, "our client will take your failure to pay as evidence of you insolvency in which circumstances it will be entitled to petition for your bankruptcy."

Essessi says he worked "at least 400 hours of overtime" during an eight month period ("and I most certainly was not the worst offender when it came to racking up the overtime"), which he says Codemasters bosses promised - and failed - to return in time off in lieu.

"I can't help but feel that Codemasters are being wholly unreasonable about this - they are coming in heavy handed at a bunch of people - 70 or so - who all received extra money and didn't query it because they all had plenty of good reason to expect it to be a genuine payment," he wrote.

"After laying us off, after horribly mistreating us, after cocking up the redundancy procedure and best of all, just before Christmas, they are coming at us aggressively because they made yet another mistake. The best of it is that they owe us money, many of us have outstanding expense claims or were not reimbursed for overtime.

"Some employees did so much overtime that their hourly rate was less than minimum wage - and the company made no effort (despite its legal obligations) to prevent this from happening.

"So here I am. I have gone public. You know my name, who I am and what I do. I have nothing to fear from Codemasters or anyone else in the industry - I am in the right - I have been reasonable and approachable and done nothing wrong.

"I write this article now not because I am bitter about redundancy - I've been there before - not because I want to weasel out of paying the money - because I am willing to pay it back provided they make it reasonable for me to do so.

"I do it because it is the right thing to do - because I am sick and tired of big business being incompetent and getting away with it because of fear and na´vetÚ. I don't like bullies, I never have, I never will."

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