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Tech giants want Steve Jobs' personality out of wage-fixing suit

Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe Systems argue that the Apple co-founder’s temperament should not be fair game in the upcoming class-action trial.

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 co-founder Steve Jobs was known for having a no-nonsense and sometimes "bullying" personality. And that sort of information should not be admissible in the upcoming class-action wage-fixing lawsuit aimed at Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe Systems, the companies wrote in a joint court filing from last week, according to Reuters.

In the filing, the tech companies say Jobs' communications with witnesses involved in the case is fine, but bringing in other evidence of his personality -- such as Walter Issacson's biography -- shouldn't be allowed in the trial.

"Plaintiffs' only purpose for offering this testimony would be improper -- to cast Mr. Jobs in a bad light," the companies wrote in the filing, according to Reuters. The companies also wrote that such evidence couldn't speak to illegal wage-fixing.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2011 by a group of around 64,600 engineers, designers, quality analysts, artists, editors, and system administrators that worked at one of the tech companies between 2005 and 2010. It accuses the firms of conspiring to eliminate competitive hiring and keeping wages artificially low.

The case hinges on whether there was an agreement between the competing companies to not hire employees away from each other -- something the companies agreed to discontinue after a 2009 antitrust investigation by the US Department of Justice.

Examples of collusion between the companies can reportedly be seen in the emails between high-level executives. According to Reuters, court documents show that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt sent an email to Jobs saying a recruiter would be fired after trying to poach an Apple employee. Jobs then allegedly sent the email to an Apple human resources executive and added a smiley face.

Originally, seven companies were named as defendants in the lawsuit: Adobe Systems, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. But, Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar all agreed to settle.

The lawsuit was granted class-action status last October by US District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh; and last month she quashed a request for summary judgment by the defendant tech firms, which set the stage for a trial. Unless the remaining four companies settle, the trial is expected to begin in late May and damages could reach more than $9 billion.

CNET contacted Apple for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.