The Northern District of California federal court has dealt a blow to Google Inc., Apple Inc., Adobe Systems Inc. and Intel Corp.  recently, taking the position that the proposed $324.5 million settlement to employees for anti-trust violations is not enough.  The Judge, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, believes that at least $50 million more is warranted.

The decision came after one of the four plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed an objection to the April, 2014 tentative settlement that had been reached. Plaintiff Michael Devine took the position that the proposed $324.5 million settlement would repay the affected 64,000+ employees only a fraction of the damages they sustained as a result of the employers’ antitrust violations. The employees were expected to demand at least $3 billion from a jury if the legal fight had moved to trial, an amount that could have tripled under federal antitrust law.

The case arose out of evidence that the tech giants entered into “no-hire” agreements with each other, promising not to hire the other companies’ employees between 2005-2009.  The alleged bilateral agreements were between: (1) Apple and Google, (2) Apple and Adobe, (3) Apple and Pixar, (4) Google and Intel, (5) Google and Intuit, and (6) Lucasfilm and Pixar.  Unfortunately, that resulted in salaries for engineers, network, and IT professionals of all kinds and experience levels suffering from lower wages and an inability to obtain new work.  In September, 2010, the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division also filed legal claims against Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, and Pixar, alleging a violation of federal antitrust laws.

The Court’s decision came after substantial evidence was presented confirming that a conspiracy had been reached between the tech giants agreeing not to hire each other’s employees. For instance, court papers showed, Google wanted in 2005 to hire a group of Apple engineers. Mr. Jobs’s response: “If you hire a single one of these people, that means war.”  “There is substantial and compelling evidence that Steve Jobs … was a, if not the, central figure in the alleged conspiracy,” Judge Koh wrote in her opinion.

In California, employees are entitled to protections under state wage/hour laws, federal labor laws, and federal antitrust laws. It is unlawful for employers to enter agreements or conspiracies promising “not to hire”  or recruit their competitors’ employees, as it violates federal antitrust laws.  The California civil class action also alleged violations of California’s Cartwright Act, and California’s unfair competition laws.

Axis Legal Counsel is a general practice law firm based out of Los Angeles representing clients in class action and individual actions for violations of federal and state labor laws, including California’s wage and hour laws.  For information on retaining Axis Legal Counsel to represent you with respect to any wage, hour, or labor law matter, contact or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation.