Developer Reaches Back-Pay Deal With Government

Sensory Sweep, accused of not paying its 200 workers since at least October, has entered into a consent agreement with the federal Department of Labor under which current and former employees will be repaid.

The agreement is in a consent injunction ordered by a federal judge on Thursday. It grew out of an injunction the government had earlier sought, barring the shipment of any finished or unfinished Sensory Sweep product. The studio has developed Tales of Despereaux and Jackass: The Game, among other titles.

According to the agreement, Sensory Sweep can't deliver any product to a publisher without clearing it first with the Salt Lake City wage and hour office of the Department of Labor. The money Sensory Sweep gets from such shipments must be kept in a separate account; at least two-thirds of it must be used to pay current and back wages to employees. The rest may be used for operating costs to stay in business.

An amended consent injunction, specifying the total amounts to be repaid and to whom, will be filed by Feb. 9. An affidavit filed by Labor's wage and hour investigator in this case estimated more than $2 million is due to employees. However, "It is likely that the actual amount due is not this great. We have not had the opportunity to substantiate any information [Sensory Sweep CEO Dave Rushton] has provided this far. We know he owes back wages but it has not been determined the exact amount at this time."

Kotaku has contacted Sensory Sweep vice president Chris Rushton for comment. Earlier this week, he made a brief statement that said the company was working on an agreement with the government, and it was grateful for employees who had stayed on "through these troubled times." He declined further comment, citing the ongoing negotations. It's unknown if the consent injunction, assuming it is followed, effectively ends the government's complaint against Sensory Sweep or not.

Many readers have wondered how 200 employees would continue working for an employer that was no longer paying them. Earlier this week I spoke to a former employee and asked the same question.

"People like to say I work for a video game company," said the designer, who requested anonymity because he is still seeking work in the industry. "It's very important to them. It's so important, they'll sacrifice their lives, their houses, their cars. We had a few threats of divorce come out of this. It's because they want to make games and that’s all they want to do."

Add to that the super-saturated development market in Utah, and many employees seemed to feel they were better off in a job that wasn't paying than out looking for one with hundreds of others who are unemployed, too.

Kotaku will have more on this as it develops, of course.