Apple, Google lose bid to avoid trial on tech worker lawsuit

Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:18pm EDT
 
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By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday rejected a request from Apple, Google and two other tech companies to avoid a trial in a class action lawsuit alleging a scheme to drive down wages.

Tech workers sued the companies alleging they conspired to avoid competing for each other's employees in order to avert a salary war. Trial is scheduled to begin in May.

Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe asked for a judgment in their favor without a trial, arguing that any no-hire agreements between the companies were reached independently, and were not part of an overarching conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif., however, rejected that argument.

"That the agreements were entered into and enforced by a small group of intertwining high level executives bolsters the inference that the agreements were not independent," wrote Koh.

A representative for Adobe could not immediately be reached for comment. An Intel spokesman said the company is studying the ruling, and representatives for Google and Apple declined to comment.

The case began in 2011 when five software engineers sued Apple, Google, Adobe Systems Inc, Intel Corp and others, alleging a conspiracy to suppress pay by agreeing not to recruit or hire each other's employees.

These defendants were accused of violating the Sherman Act and Clayton Act antitrust laws by conspiring to eliminate competition for labor, depriving workers of job mobility and hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.

The case has been closely watched in Silicon Valley, with much of it built on emails among top executives, including the late Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs and former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt.   Continued...

 
A neon Google logo is seen as employees work at the new Google office in Toronto, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch