This is the Summer of Zynga’s discontent. There are Zynga’s stock woes, which have prompted Forbes to question whether the gaming company is really worth any money at all. Forbes‘s Eric Savitz writes that “the market is basically saying it simply does not see any long-term value in the company’s ongoing business.”
Then there’s also this class action suit filed against Zynga in a California Superior Court on July 16, which alleges Zynga failed to pay overtime and has unfair business practices.
According to the suit filed by Richard Ashley, Zynga allegedly bypassed California laws governing overtime wages, so they could use the fancy job titles (“Senior Analyst,” etc.) to keep those workers exempt from overtime pay.
Mr. Ashley’s suit, filed on behalf of current and former employees of the company, alleges Zynga “misclassified” IT and engineering jobs, giving overblown titles to positions that were essentially “performing routine production work, not requiring special expertise.” Jobs the lawsuit states needed “little or no exercise of discretion.”
The court papers indicate Zynga was “regularly and generally” working the plaintiffs more than 40 hours a week and never paying them for the additional labor. California law clearly states that non-exempt workers putting in more than the regular 40 get time-and-a-half for their work.
Writing in the Times DealBook in November, 2011, Evelyn M. Rusli described a “tough culture” at Zynga, which was at the time riding high on the popularity of games like FarmVille. At least one paragraph reads now like a warning:
While such a culture is not uncommon in the game industry, it can create problems. Employees at Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard have filed lawsuits against their employers, with claims of hostile work conditions and withheld compensation. In 2006, Electronic Arts settled two class-action lawsuits by game artists and programmers for about $15 million each. The Activision suit is still pending.
Employees told the Times they were afraid at the time to speak out against Zynga at the time for fear of reprisals.
Though Mr. Ashley’s association with Zynga could only be found buried in one cached Google result (he was described as a “CS Senior Lead”), it looks like he and others have decided to exact some sort of reprisal of their own.