Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe must face a group lawsuit with potentially thousands of employees claiming their incomes were held down by the companies’ agreements not to recruit one another’s workers.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, on Thursday granted class-action certification. The decision follows Koh’s April ruling rejecting the employees’ bid to proceed as a class action, partly because they failed to demonstrate that all or almost all class members were affected by the anti-solicitation agreements.
At an Aug. 8 hearing on the companies’ effort to dismiss the case, Koh said the plaintiffs’ case “is much stronger” than it was in April as a result of more pretrial information gathering.
The lawsuit is a private action on behalf of employees that mirrors claims the companies settled with the U.S. Justice Department in 2010.
Three companies named in the original complaint, Intuit Inc. and Walt Disney Co.’s animation studio Pixar and visual-effects specialist Lucasfilm Ltd., tentatively settled the antitrust claims, plaintiffs’ lawyers told Koh in letters in July.
Before the settlements, plaintiffs’ lawyers claimed the anti-competitive behavior artificially suppressed compensation of more than 160,000 employees across a range of job categories. The settlements reduced the proposed class to about 66,000 employees.
The companies have argued that the employees’ lawyers failed to show that everyone in the proposed group was hurt by any such no-hire agreements with rivals, as is required for class certification.
Robert Van Nest, a lawyer for the companies, said at the Aug. 8 hearing that the plaintiffs are “swinging for the fences” with their arguments seeking class certification.
“They need to show that the wage structures were so rigid that they would’ve affected all or nearly all of the class,” Van Nest told Koh. “They have absolutely failed to do that.”
No class has ever been certified that is “this broad and this diverse” in a wage-suppression case, Van Nest said.
Before the settlements last month, plaintiffs’ lawyers claimed the anti-competitive behavior artificially suppressed compensation of more than 160,000 employees across a range of job categories. The class has since been reduced to 61,666 employees, according to a court filing.
The case is In Re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-02509, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).