Court: Workers can sue Apple, Google, others in wage dispute

An appeals court rules that around 60,000 workers can collectively pursue lawsuits against several major tech players over alleged antipoaching agreements.

A diagram from the suit demonstrating how the tech companies allegedly reached agreements on hires and compensation.
A diagram from the suit demonstrating how the tech companies allegedly reached agreements on hires and compensation. Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein

Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel, and other companies will have to battle a class action lawsuit from around 60,000 disgruntled workers.

Late Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld last October's ruling by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh that paved the way for a lawsuit against companies accused of conspiring to fix wages by agreeing not to poach employees. The appeals court's decision affirms the right of the workers to pursue their lawsuit as a group, according to Reuters.

If successful, a class action lawsuit can saddle the defendants with a higher penalty than if each of the plaintiffs sued individually. In this case, the tech companies could find themselves collectively hit with up to $9 billion in damages.

The accused companies had appealed Judge Koh's decision last year, calling it "manifestly erroneous," according to Reuters. Specifically, they argued that the claims against them involved employees with 2,400 job titles at seven different companies and that even the plaintiffs didn't allege that the total hiring of workers was affected.

The case originated in 2011 when a small group of engineers sued Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar , accusing them of conspiring to hold down salaries and vowing not to hire employees away from each other. The companies named in the suit, with the exception of Lucasfilm, had already settled in a Department of Justice investigation in 2010 by promising not to enter into any further nonsolicitation agreements.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.


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