Judge Rejects Class Action in Anti-Poaching Lawsuit, But Open to More Evidence

Susan Hall

A federal judge on Friday rejected a plan to create a class-action lawsuit against Apple, Google and other major tech companies for an alleged anti-poaching scheme.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh did, however, indicate that there’s strong evidence of such a pact, though she said workers may have been affected in too many different ways to lump all their claims together. She will allow the plaintiffs’ lawyers to present further evidence to argue the merits of a class action, reports The Associated Press in a story published at WRAL TechWire.

The tech companies include Intel, Intuit, Adobe Systems and filmmakers Pixar and LucasFilm, both now owned by Walt Disney Co. With the exception of LucasFilm, the same companies settled similar allegations in 2010.

The pact allegedly applied in particular to engineers, with one aim to keep wages from rising. The lawsuit holds the potential for the companies to be required to pay damages to more than 100,000 workers, according to the AP.

Koh pointed to emails in evidence involving the company CEOs, according to SiliconValley.com. She wrote:

"Indeed, the sustained personal efforts by the corporations' own chief executives, including but not limited to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Pixar President Ed Catmull, Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell and Intel CEO Paul Otellini, to monitor and enforce these agreements indicate that the agreements may have had broad effects on defendants' employees."

A similar lawsuit was filed against eBay back in November. That suit claimed that between 2006 and 2009, recruiters were instructed to disregard resumes from Intuit employees.

During the 2010 investigation, our Rob Enderle explained why anti-poaching agreements backfire:

Preventing employees from going where they can be happier, make more or be more productive creates a drag on the company and the industry because they will likely underperform and not be used to their potential in the company. The agreement takes the emphasis off maximizing the effectiveness and happiness of employees and puts it on their forced retention. While this isn't a physical leash, it performs as a similar constraint.

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