Four high-tech companies increased their settlement offer in a case involving wages. A group of software engineers, on behalf of 64,000 others, sued Adobe, Apple, Google, Intuit, LucasFilm, Pixar, and Intel in 2011. They claimed that high-tech companies had agreements not to hire away each other’s employees. The workers alleged that these agreements kept wages low between 2005 and 2009. The allegations, if true, would violate federal antitrust laws.
The case began in 2011 when a former LucasFilm software engineer filed a lawsuit claiming that the seven companies involved conspired to keep high-tech wages low by refraining from hiring one another’s employees. The U.S. Department of Justice performed an investigation, which was settled, with the companies agreeing to discontinue the practice. The current lawsuit says the companies are still profiting from the aftermath of their illegal business practices. The lawsuit asks for $3 billion in damages, and under U.S. antitrust laws, that amount could be tripled.
Some of the evidence in case focuses on the hiring practices of high-tech companies. In one e-mail, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs emailed then-Google CEO and Apple board member Eric Schmidt, and asked Schmidt to stop trying to hire one of Apple’s engineers. Schmidt forwarded the request to the necessary parties, with a note telling them that they had a policy of no recruiting from Apple, and to stop trying to steal one of Apple’s engineers. The recruiter for Google who tried to hire the Apple engineer was fired.
Three of the companies involved (Intuit, LucasFilm, and Pixar), settled the claims in 2013. The four remaining companies agreed to pay $324.5 million last May in a settlement offer. The judge rejected the offer as being too low. She said that she was concerned that the plaintiffs would receive less than those who settled their claims earlier with Intuit, LucasFilm, and Pixar. The settlement with those companies was $20 million, and only covered 8 percent of the employees named in the lawsuit. The judge pointed out that if the remaining defendants paid a settlement at the same rate or higher, the amount should total at least $380 million.
The four remaining companies have upped their offer to $415 million. The offer will still require court approval. Attorneys for the plaintiffs have agreed to settle their case, after deciding it would be hard to prove the conspiracy to a jury.
Wage conspiracies are just one of the tactics employers use to save money on employment-related expenses. Many people think that employment law violations only occur in blue-collar, low-paid, unskilled fields, but this case shows that no employees are immune to employers who choose to violate federal employment laws. Even high-tech companies that employ highly-skilled, in-demand workers can violate the law.
If your legal rights have been violated in the workplace, you need to speak with an experienced California employment law attorney. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that companies cannot willingly violate the law and get away with it. Instead, they need to be held responsible for their actions. Call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 to learn more.
Micha Star Liberty works with clients throughout the Oakland-San Francisco area, including Hayward, Tracy, Fairfield, San Jose, Sacramento, Berkeley, and the surrounding areas. She helps employees who have been discriminated or harassed at work on the basis of race, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and more. She also helps employees who have not been properly paid all compensation to which they are entitled. Call today to learn more about how she can help, and to schedule your free consultation.