Despite the intense rivalries between today’s top technology power players, there is one issue they seem to all agree on: keeping employee wages as low as possible. Hour and wage attorneys highlight the injustice these employees are facing, and hope this issue will be resolved in their favor.
Recently, employees from Apple, Adobe, Google, Intel, Lucasfilm, Intuit, and Pixar filed a class-action lawsuit claiming these companies worked together to artificially lower wages. In 2010 the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation in regard to these claims, which was only recently made public. The DOJ investigation seems to support the conspiracy allegations, revealing that these companies entered into ‘no-poach’ agreements, meaning they would not recruit each others’ workers for at least four years between 2005 and 2009.
A similar case was filed in November by the DOJ against the former CEO of eBay. The suit alleges that eBay and Intuit entered into a similar no-poach agreement, promising to throw out any resumes coming from each others’ employees.
The class action lawsuit currently involves over 100,000 technology employees. The companies previously attempted to dismiss the case to no avail, as a California district judge ruled that they must proceed with the suit. The evidence against these companies is abundant, thanks in no small part to the DOJ investigation. Its records indicate that the companies did indeed agree to not poach each others’ workers, not offer positions to any workers who voluntarily applied, and to notify the applying person’s employer of the situation. The companies also jointly decided to limit the possibility for workers to negotiate higher wages and agreed against entering into any bidding wars.
Although there is no seven-way conspiracy pact between the companies, there is very strong evidence that supports that each company knew of the others’ agreements not to solicit employees, drafted other agreements off those, and worked together to obtain the same goals – keeping worker wages low and preventing them from seeking better, more lucrative positions.
Such hiring and agreement practices are illegal, especially when conducted without employee knowledge. In 2010 the DOJ requested that the companies cease all like behavior, which they complied with in hopes of avoiding litigation. They did not, however, publicly admit to any guilt in the situation, nor did they enact any practices to compensate employees who were affected by these illegal acts.
The employees involved in the antitrust class action lawsuit are salaried workers employed between 2005 and 2009. They are seeking restitution for lost compensation along with treble damages, which authorizes the judge to award plaintiffs triple monetary damages. Employees are enraged that their passion and hard work was undermined by their employers, which made immense profits off their skills and knowledge. The plaintiffs affirm that competition in the workplace enables individuals to have better salaries, career opportunities, and ultimately, better products for consumers, and that these important factors were compromised in the no-poach agreements. They allege that their compensation was reduced by 10 to 15 percent, at least, during the four year no-poach period.
Competition is what drives the American marketplace and economy. Particularly
in the high technology industry, there is an immense demand for skilled
employees who are able to produce innovative ideas and technological developments.
These attempts to fix and suppress employee wages is a direct violation
of California’s antitrust, business, and unfair competition laws.
The case seems to suggest that Apple is most heavily at fault; plaintiffs are arguing that each agreement in the suit involved a company either controlled by Apple’s CEO or with specific ties to Apple’s board of directors. Although such an intricate and interconnected web of conspiracy is not, unfortunately, that uncommon in American industry, such a case may prove extremely damaging to Apple and other top technology companies.
Wage and hour attorneys hope that these companies are finally held liable for their misconduct. Injustice of this type against American employees should not be tolerated, and the illegal dealings among top industry companies must be brought to light.