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Judge Denies Dismissal of No-Poach Conspiracy Case 224

theodp writes "Testifying before Congress in 2007, Google's HR chief stated: 'We make great efforts to uncover the most talented employees we can find.' But according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Google actually went to some lengths to avoid uncovering some of tech's most talented employees, striking up agreements with Apple, Intel, and other corporations to avoid recruiting each other's employees. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh ruled that Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Disney, Pixar, Intuit and Lucasfilm must face a lawsuit claiming they violated antitrust laws by entering into no-poaching agreements with each other. 'I don't want to see any obstruction on discovery,' Koh told lawyers during a hearing. According to the head attorney representing the plaintiffs, the total damages could exceed $150 million if just 10,000 entry-level engineers were affected."
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Judge Denies Dismissal of No-Poach Conspiracy Case

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:08AM (#38839467)

    California Business and Professions Code Section 16600 nullifies any contract that restrains anyone from engaging in a lawful business, profession, or trade. In other words, non-competes and non-solicits are not legal in California. CA courts have also rejected the "eventual disclosure" theory that would prevent someone from taking a job because they know trade secrets.

    Sec 16600 is, in part, why Silicon Valley is in CA and not NY or MA.

  • Re:Unions (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:15AM (#38839533)

    It's not actually legal for unions to do it; the "closed shop", where new hires can only come from the labor union's membership pool, is illegal in the U.S. since 1947.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:30AM (#38839705)

    I'm sorry, but 10x average salary. Hmm, I'm an engineer. Average salary is somewhere around 45K a year. I don't know any that make 450K a year. I would say 2x isn't uncommon, and some of the highly compensated might make 3x average, but 10x, no.

    But then comes the muddying of the water. First, we do a job that very few can do. The drop out rate in school is >70% of the people who attempt to earn the degrees. Further than that, I don't have a number, but a fairly large percentage enter the work world, and discover they can't handle it. This leaves a very small number of people who can actually produce as an engineer. Toss in that EVERYTHING needs to be engineered. Whether due to nature of the product or due to regulation, this is just a fact of life. This creates high demand and low supply, which leads to our seemingly high pay.

    But wait, now for such a needed profession, then it turns out, we're actually not highly paid, even relative to what we do. For some odd reason, especially in tech, the companies are always locals with high cost of living. This means, comparing the salary of an engineer to a farmer in the mid-west isn't really fair. Compare an engineers salary to the average in the bay area, that'd be more fair. And then of course, the average american works on average of 38-39 hours a week. The typical engineer looks at 40 hours longingly. We're all salaried employees, which means we don't get overtime, and 50 per week is fairly normal. My last job, I would regularly crack 65 and even had a couple months where I was averaging 80 hours a week. People who've never worked 80 hours really can't grasp it. I never thought 80 would be much until I did it. that's 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. You literally get up, get dressed, drive to work, work, drive home, eat dinner, get ready for bed, and sleep. That's it. For double, or MAYBE triple the national average salary. And then you throw in companies that try to hinder people trying to improve their lot a little.

    You'll undoubtedly say "well, if you don't like it, then leave", but that mentality ignores some very important factors. Engineers are an odd assortment. First, we typically genuinely love what we do. We don't mind working 50 hours a week, because we love it, but that doesn't mean we don't get exhausted. Also, our work ethic is typically top notch, and we have a huge amount of pride in what we do. We take ownership in what we create and it hurts us to abandon it. We also put up with an amazing amount of BS. A lot of companies understand this, and use it to their advantage to basically turn us into slaves. Yes, not in the literal sense, but by taking advantage of our idiosyncrasies, they effectively do.

  • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:31AM (#38839711)

    Of course it should be. People should not be locked into one employer just because any potential employer in their field has a No Poach agreement with their current employer. It seems ridiculous now, but as these companies get larger, and their reach and influence gets larger, it's only going to get worse.

    If things like this are allowed to stand, how long will it be before you're basically locked into an employer for life? People laugh at the rhetoric that gets thrown around these days, like indentured servants, or serfs, but really, what else could you call employees in a situation like this? And what recourse would employees have? Leave their field entirely? Or the deliberately ignorant "Start your own business, then!!" that is thrown around whenever anyone complains about their employer these days?

    It never ceases to amaze me how much the common man will fight against his own self-interest. In what possible way could these No Poach agreements benefit anyone that is not a C-level executive at any of these companies?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:37AM (#38839797)

    Not just unenforceable, but actually prohibited in California (where all this anti-poach activity is going on)..
    However, there are devious ways to achieve the same result: Allege that the leaving employee possesses trade secret knowledge that will inevitably be disclosed. Whether or not that's true (and the courts tend to say it's not), the threat of litigation accompanying your hiring that person tends to have a chilling effect on the whole thing.

  • Re:Uh what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by zzsmirkzz ( 974536 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:41AM (#38839855)

    There is nothing stopping anyone from applying for a job on their own time, and none of this is about not hiring the competition.

    Actually, from what I heard, this is also part of the agreement. Not to hire competitors employees, that apply for a job, on their own, with the company. Then, on top of that, to report to the competitor, after refusing the employee, that they attempted to apply for a job with them.

    Just like laws, Contracts can have misleading titles too.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:4, Informative)

    by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:03PM (#38840107)

    Why is that a reasonable excuse? How is that not discrimination? Why should my current employer disqualify me from a job with another one if I meet every other criteria for employment?

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