Furthermore, many IT workers do not realize that their rights are being violated when they are denied overtime pay by their employers.
The Human Cost of Unpaid Overtime
William Cross, CIO of Seminole Electric Cooperative, spoke before IBM's SHARE conference about how work-related stress can often be exacerbated when IT workers are not adequately compensated or recognized for their hard work.
Cross described many IT workers as able to thrive professionally under near-isolated conditions, yet ultimately having a deep need for approval. This, Cross states, can be "a very seriously flawed combination," when it comes to workplace satisfaction.
After sacrificing time with family to build a product that may make millions for a company, many IT workers feel betrayed, but afraid to confront their employers for fear of losing their "perfect job."
"Stress is a big deal with us," said Cross, who warned IT workers that they face health problems if they don't address it. Cross encourages a healthy work-life balance and strives for 40-hour work weeks.
Chris Taylor, the head of Gas Powered Games and designer of Supreme Commander also strives for a 40-hour week. "You make better games when you work regular hours," Taylor told GameSpot magazine.
Programmers Speak Out
Employers like Taylor and Cross are the exception, not the rule, according to programmers from across the Silicon Valley who weighed in with The Daily Tech about their concerns:
"There is indeed pressure to work overtime in software fields," said one programmer. "I did see my reviewed performance go 'down' when I made the decision to stop giving away free hours and wrecking my life.
"The perception of management is that if you aren't there at all hours of the day for whatever flipping idiotic thing they want, you just aren't pulling your weight."
Another programmer with decades of experience noted: "It has never been worth it to work programmers overtime, but corporate heads don't think like that. They are so concerned with making money and getting the product out the door at the right time that they don't worry about things like quality and the welfare of their employees."
Programmers: Know Your Rights
If you work in IT and spend more than 50% of your time writing code and are paid on a salary basis, you may be entitled to overtime pay in the state of California.
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Recent Legal Settlements
As cases make their way through the courts, several high profile companies accused of violating California labor laws have reached expensive settlements with their employees.
In late June 2007, Sony Computer Entertainment America reached a class action settlement requiring the company to pay $8.5 million to current and former employees. The suit was led by a former employee who claimed he was improperly classified by Sony so that he would be considered exempt from overtime.
Last year, Electronic Arts settled a similar lawsuit for $14.9 million.