Three years ago, the Department of Justice concluded that six tech companies in Silicon Valley were conspiring not to hire each other’s highly skilled employees, in order to drive down wages, which also resulted in depriving workers of access to better jobs. The companies broke antitrust laws, according to the Department of Justice, and the DOJ reached a settlement with the companies involved to stop doing that for five years.

The investigations found that the companies involved, which are Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar, had quietly entered into agreements that prevented the companies from directly soliciting each other’s employees. In giant technology companies, there is a strong demand for employees with advanced or specialized skills. One way in which the companies find such employees is by soliciting them directly from other companies. The companies involved in this case agreed not to cold call any employee at the other companies.

Although this practice benefits the companies by assuring that their most valuable employees are not hired away by other high tech companies, this practice is illegal and hurts the employees. It prevents employees from finding better, higher paying jobs, and stifles the job market.

Lawsuits have been filed against the companies by employees who claim their wages were driven down as a result of the illegal practice. Last year, lawsuits against two of the companies, Intuit and Pixar, were settled for $20 million. In January, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for a class-action suit against the other four companies. This lawsuit involves 100,000 workers who may have lost $9 billion between 2005 and 2009 as a result of the illegal practices. A jury trial will start in May.

This lawsuit illustrates the lengths companies will go to retain employees, even if it means the employees are harmed in the process by being denied the opportunity to work for another giant tech company. This type of conduct is a form of mistreatment to the employee, and employees have a legal right to compensation if their rights are being violated.

Mistreatment of employees occurs every day in the U.S., in all types of industries ranging from billion dollar tech companies down to very small companies that are struggling to stay afloat. Some common types of illegal actions taken against employees include discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or other similar reasons. Employees also often face not being paid properly for the hours they have worked, including overtime, sick leave, and vacation pay. Employees may be working in a hostile work environment, or could have been wrongfully fired. Employees may have been improperly characterized as independent contractors when they are actually employees.

Fortunately, help is available for employees whose legal rights are being violated. Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law believes that employers should obey employment laws that are in place to protect employees, and if they fail to do so they should be held liable for any damages caused. Call Micha Star Liberty today to learn more about your legal rights at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works with clients throughout the Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas.

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