Interplay offices closed by state officials

<i>The Orange County Register</i> reports that California labor investigators have shut down the publisher--something CEO Herve Caen disputes.

Less than a day after CEO Herve Caen said Interplay was "still here," the publisher has apparently been shut down by the State of California. The Orange County Register's Tamara Chuang reported late Friday that California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement forced the Irvine, California-based developer-publisher of Fallout to suspend operations.

The closure followed a snap inspection of Interplay's offices by investigators, who found the company was without workers’ compensation insurance and had not paid employees. According to officials, there were 14 staffers on-site Friday during the inspection, and 79 still on Interplay's payroll--down nearly 40 since their mid-April financial statements.

The labor officials' visitation was prompted by complaints by seven Interplay workers who claimed their wages had gone unpaid. Dean Fryer, spokesman for the California Labor Commissioner, told the Register, "An employer has responsibilities when they open a business. The responsibilities include proper and timely payment of wages. It includes providing workers' compensation coverage in case there are injuries. If the employer cannot accommodate those basic issues of doing business, we cannot allow employees to work."

As a penalty for its infractions, Interplay was fined $1,000 for each employee on the payroll, which resulted in a $79,000 fine. This sum is in addition to the $179,000 the company already owes the state in back taxes and the $432,000 in unpaid rent it owes its landlord, Arden Realty, who is reportedly on the verge of evicting the company. In addition, it is being sued for $156,000 in back Baldur's Gate royalties by BioWare. As part of its mid-April financial statements, Interplay declared it only had $1.2 million in cash on hand.

Despite the increasingly daunting scale of Interplay's difficulties, Caen brushed them off. "I hope to have that [insurance] back by Monday or Tuesday," he told the Register optimistically. Caen also had the esprit to question the semantics of Chuang's article. "The company has not shut down. [The state] can’t do that. It can only let me not let employees work," he said.

In addition to breaking the closure news, Chuang also confirmed that Interplay employees had not been paid for over a month, had no health insurance, and had been told to remove their belongings from the building due to a looming lockout by Arden.

Still, some of the Interplay staffers at the office on Friday held out a more genuine sense of hope than their employer. "The reason I stick around is that I’m a diehard loyalist and I love the people I work with," IS manager Steve Jobes told the Register. "If there is any sliver of hope that Interplay may someday turn around, I want to be there to see it."

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