Tech workers seek to use Steve Jobs evidence in upcoming trial on no-hire accords

Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:31am EDT
 
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By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Four large technology companies should not be allowed to limit evidence about Apple Inc co-founder Steve Jobs at an upcoming trial over no-hire agreements in Silicon Valley, according to a court document filed late on Thursday by employees suing the firms.

Tech workers brought a class action lawsuit against Apple, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc in 2011, alleging they conspired to avoid competing for each other's employees in order to avert a salary war. Trial is scheduled to begin at the end of May on behalf of roughly 64,000 workers in the class, and plaintiffs say damages could top $3 billion.

The case, which is closely watched in Silicon Valley, is largely built on emails among top executives, including Apple's late chief executive Jobs and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

In one instance, after a Google recruiter solicited an Apple employee, Schmidt told Jobs that the recruiter would be fired, court documents show. Jobs then forwarded Schmidt's note to a top Apple human resources executive with a smiley face appended.

Earlier this week, the four companies asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to prevent plaintiffs from unfairly portraying Jobs as a "bully" at trial. The companies said they did not seek to bar Jobs' communications about the no-hire agreements, but rather evidence gleaned from sources like Walter Isaacson's bestselling biography about Jobs.

However, in the filing on Thursday, the employees said such material had been used in separate antitrust litigation involving Apple over e-books.

"That the jury might draw conclusions about Mr. Jobs' character based on evidence showing the manner in which he pursued the conspiracy at the heart of this case is not grounds to exclude such evidence," they wrote.

A Google spokesman declined to comment. Representatives for Apple, Intel and Adobe could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could an attorney for the plaintiffs.   Continued...

 
The Apple logo is pictured at its flagship retail store in San Francisco, California January 27, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith