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Silicon Valley Fights Order To Pay Bigger Settlement In Tech Talent Hiring Case 200

The Washington Post carries a story from the Associated Press that says the big companies hit hardest by Judge Lucy Koh's ruling in the "No Poaching" case have not suprisingly appealed that ruling, which found that a proposed settlement of $324.5 million to a class-action lawsuit was too low. The suit, filed on behalf of 60,000 high-tech workers allegedlly harmed by anti-competitive hiring practices, will probably enter its next phase next January or March. (Judge Koh is probably not very popular at Apple in particular.) If you're one of those workers (or in an analogous situation), what kind of compensation or punitive action do you think is fair?
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Silicon Valley Fights Order To Pay Bigger Settlement In Tech Talent Hiring Case

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  • Punitive Damages? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Great Big Bird ( 1751616 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @07:43PM (#47843553)
    How about the amount of money they didn't have to pay their employees times 2 or 3?
    • by jonsmirl ( 114798 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:08PM (#47843671) Homepage

      It's a class action. The only person that is really winning here is the lawyer that is getting $150,000,000 for bringing the suit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        > It's a class action. The only person that is really winning here is the lawyer that is getting $150,000,000 for bringing the suit.

        No. This case is different. Those lawyers were all set to sell out the people in the class for peanuts - they were happy to do it because they were getting the lion's share of the money. But the judge said fuck no! and put the kibosh on that collaboration and said that it wasn't fair to the actual people who got screwed over. I am not much of a court watcher but having a

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @09:13PM (#47843901) Journal

        It's a class action. The only person that is really winning here is the lawyer that is getting $150,000,000 for bringing the suit.

        To put it into perspective the existing settlement is $5400 per class action participant showing just how much IT workers are under paid for the investment required to be skilled enough to do the work.

        As to the lawyer, someone had to bring the suit because it's not as if IT workers have representation of their own and I expect a case like that was expensive to run. I doubt that the lawyers company will be looked upon favorably by the tech giants anymore either, so if the figure you say is real then it's about right for someone sticking their neck out against a group of behemoths that make that amount of money look like chump change.

        Think about it, how much money to you expect Apple et. al would pay to reduce their primary capital expenditure, labour costs?

        It's unlikely that tech giants will want that kind of represetation to survive to threaten them again and they want other lawyers will think twice about representing IT people thus making it more expensive for IT folk to get what they are entitled to.

        If you need proof that IT folk are underpaid, here is one of the few times an ordinary person can see exactly what machinations occur to keep it that way.

        • I doubt that the lawyers company will be looked upon favorably by the tech giants anymore either

          I wouldn't be so sure. If they're like most employment lawyers that I'm familiar with, they work both sides of the table, so odds are they've helped other companies screw over their people in the past.
    • by beakerMeep ( 716990 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:34PM (#47843755)

      The thing we really need here is public justice. If the world does not know how these ultra rich are conspiring against them, then there is no justice. They need to unseal all of the evidence, no exceptions.

      Also I think it's important to note one of the plaintiffs (Michael Devine) who pushed the judge into ruling against this, the lawyers wanted to walk away with their check.

      From a May 2014 CNET article [cnet.com]

      Plaintiff fights Apple, Google settlement in wage-fixing suit

      A programmer who is part of the class action lawsuit against several tech giants says $324 million isn't enough.
      -----

      "As an analogy," Devine wrote to Koh, according to the Times, "if a shoplifter is caught on video stealing a $400 iPad from the Apple Store, would a fair and just resolution be for the shoplifter to pay Apple $40, keep the iPad, and walk away with no record or admission of wrongdoing? Of course not."

      Had the case gone to trial as planned at the end of May, court filings indicate, the tech employees would have sought $3 billion. Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Intuit agreed to settle last year for a combined $20 million, covering 8 percent of the employees named in the suit.

      • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @09:00PM (#47843855) Homepage Journal
        I think a different analogy is appropriate. Say a group of activist threatened to block access to stores in a neighborhood who charged more than $1 a pound for any fruit. The stores have a choice between taking a loss on fruit, not selling fruit, or having their customers harassed. In such a case we can be sure the police would be called and the activist arrested. The stores could probably sue for lost sales as well.

        The problem we have in the US is that firms are given a great deal of leeway to insure that they can charge as high as price as the market will bear, but labor is severely restricted in doing the same. For instance firms are free to form collectives that lobby congress and produce promotional campaigns, even to the point of forcing companies to pay for such promotions, but unions have to bill lobbying efforts separate and members can opt out. Likewise firms are allowed to use some pretty significant tools to prevent labor from organizing, though firms are free to do the same with few restrictions.

        • The problem we have in the US is that firms are given a great deal of leeway to insure that they can charge as high as price as the market will bear,

          and as a logical consequence,

          but labor is severely restricted in doing the same.

          The second is a given, if you understand this:

          Maximizing profit is an aspect of capitalism
          Minimizing cost is also an aspect of capitalism

          Minimizing opportunity for your labor to make itself more profitable is a logical outcome of capitalism. Age and minimum wage laws are anti-capi

          • by fermion ( 181285 )
            Only because you think the labor market is different from other markets. One thing you miss is that the there are regulations in all markets. In fact firms want these regulations so the competition is simplified. On radical extremist say the minimum wage is bad, as it allows firms to compete for labor in a less expensive manner. There is disagreement on the value of the minimum wage, but even developing countries have minimum wages. It would be like saying that indoor plumbing or septic tanks should no
        • by jbolden ( 176878 )

          Being able to opt out of a union is called right-to-work. It is not true in all states, essentially red states have right-to-work and blue states if the union wins the election they represent all the workers and collect fees from everyone. In particular it is not true in California. If there was a tech union every employee in the unionized companies would have to be part of it.

      • The thing we really need here is public justice. If the world does not know how these ultra rich are conspiring against them, then there is no justice. They need to unseal all of the evidence, no exceptions.

        The world already knows, it just doesn't care...

        Look at Snowden... frankly, many of us already suspected some of it, but he put it out there for all to see.

        You know what? The vast majority of people just don't care. Some even support it.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Kinda like if a dog is beaten since puppyhood, it won't understand that it is free to object later in life.

          Until it snaps and rips the abuser's throat out, of course.

          • Yea, kinda like that...

            After all, the American Revolution didn't happen for no reason, the English King was so abusive for so long, it's new puppy did just that.

            One day, it will happen again. It may or may not be in our lifetimes, but the status quo won't last forever.

        • I don't think apathy needs an advocate. There really is no sense in loudly proclaiming defeatism. Sure, some people don't care, but the defendants would not have worked so hard to keep documents sealed if *nobody* cared. This case is being widely covered by the media:

          Reuters: http://uk.reuters.com/article/... [reuters.com]
          Time: http://time.com/42322/steve-jo... [time.com]
          Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/ee7535... [ft.com]

          And over 186 more articles just from the past few days [google.com]

          So I don't know about what you said right there. I don't

          • Similar articles were posted in similar numbers after Snowden as well.

            Nothing has changed and everyone has moved on.

            When a million people march on Washington, then I'll believe the people care.

            Look at the civil rights movement, that was a long time coming, but clearly large numbers of people cared and they changed the country, but it took a lot more than 186 articles linked from Google to do it.

            A thousand people protesting is news... For a day or two...

            A million people protesting is a movement.

        • You know what? The vast majority of people just don't care. Some even support it.

          People care, they just don't think they can change it. It's learned helplessness, a reign of terror that keeps people bound in delusions of powerlessness. Some identify with the oppressor - an entity which ultimately exists only in our collective imagination - either because it lets them pretend they're not chained, or gives gives them material privilege, or often both. Some cover in fear from the horrible thing slithering in

          • All true... I actually agree with much of what you said...

            Allow me to rephrase...

            People don't care enough to march on Washington by the millions. Clearly change can happen, look at the civil rights movement. Look at suffrage..

            It does happen, but it takes something bigger than this to change it.

            Do I think these companies are right? No, I don't. But my thinking that doesn't mean much if I'm not out protesting.

    • The class action settlement is, at most, $5,408.33 per *worker
      Take out the 25% cut for the lawyers, and it's $4,056.25 per *worker.

      Lawyers and companies love to wave around these big figures as if it's a success, but it's actually a huge joke.

      *I used 60,000, but TFA says "more than 60,000"

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Let's see, that would be about 10K/year/worker, so 10K * 5 * 60000 = $3billion. Treble damages makes it $9 billion.

      Arguably, another year should be added since even if the practice stops (really stops, not just pretend) right now, salaries won't jump to where they should have been overnight.

    • The hr and ceo's directors of the company's to be named as "not fit and proper persons" to be board members of company's - ie they are legally disbarred from holding any senior position for say 10 years. Also the HR directors should be expelled from the HR professional body.
    • by Arkham ( 10779 )
      This whole thing is stupid. It's not like there weren't 800 other companies they could have gone to work for. I have 10 unsolicited job offers a week.
  • Fair? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2014 @07:45PM (#47843563)

    Fair? Cancel all of their H1B visas.

    • And what happens with the thousands of people who have the H1B visas?
    • That's racist!

    • Re:Fair? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday September 06, 2014 @11:52PM (#47844467) Homepage Journal

      Fair? Cancel all of their H1B visas.

      Your suggestion has some implicit assumptions which I don't think are valid in this case. At the level of Apple, Google, et al., they don't hire H1-Bs to suppress wages. At Google, at least, I know that salary is a non-issue in the hiring process. Salary requirements aren't even considered until after the hire/no-hire decision is made, and even then they have little impact on the offer... Google offers what it considers reasonable based on your experience, etc. And, actually, Google offers such good money that it's uncommon for candidates who receive offers to turn them down. So Google is paying enough to attract American talent. Google also hires people on H1-Bs, but only because Google hires anyone who is legally hire-able and can make it through the interview process and hiring committee. I strongly suspect that Apple is the same.

      I'm not denying that there are segments of the industry who hire H1-Bs in preference to Americans in order to keep wages down, but I really don't think that's the case at the companies involved in this case.

      • WAKE UP!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "they don't hire H1-Bs to suppress wages"

        YES THEY DO! You need to wake up and smell the coffee... they're just being more sophisticated and diabolical than you are.

        Here's how it works: First, they often dishonestly hire the H1-B's (frequently by tailoring "job requirements" in ways that only the people they want fit the "requirements" even when these phoney requirements have no relationship to the job; the first goal is to have a number of immigrants on visas in the workforce - the precise number and the

        • Re:WAKE UP!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday September 07, 2014 @11:53AM (#47846691) Homepage Journal

          First, they often dishonestly hire the H1-B's (frequently by tailoring "job requirements" in ways that only the people they want fit the "requirements" even when these phoney requirements have no relationship to the job

          Umm, Google doesn't define detailed requirements for technical positions. In fact, they don't even hire people for specific positions. The interview and hiring process is all about identifying people who are smart and can think on their feet, and decisions about what projects to put them on come after the hiring decision has been made. It's expected that almost nothing you know from any previous job will even apply at Google because the environment and tools are so different (everything is custom, in-house).

          What you're describing definitely does happen -- I've seen it! -- but it's not relevant at the companies involved here.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Were that true, they wouldn't be involved in this class action.

        • Were that true, they wouldn't be involved in this class action.

          This class action has nothing to do with H1-Bs. I don't think it was even so much about keeping wages down, as it does executives thinking their friends shouldn't be "stealing" from them. Though it definitely did prevent wage increases.

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            It has everything to do with colluding to keep salaries down. Clearly, they are at least somewhat interested in keeping salaries down (more interested than is legal in fact).

    • Ahhh yes, lets punish apple for punishing their employee's by punishing even more of them.

  • So I am guessing these 60,000 working are hoping to get enough to retire on, as I imagine they will find finding a job pretty hard after this?
    At $324.5 million, that only comes out to $5.4K per person. Which is obviously way too low.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's a $200 itunes gift card each, and $300M for the lawyers.

    • If these people are worth spending the time to "poach" then they won't have a hard time finding a job.

      $324,500,000 minus 1/3 for lawyer = $216,333,333.33 $216,333,333.33 divided by 60,000 people = $3,605.56 each

      Of course they'll have to pay tax as well.

      This is taking into account, I'm assuming, only the difference between what they made at their job, and what they could have made if they had been "poached" and taking into account the time taken to get to court. They aren't taking into account (and
      • If these people are worth spending the time to "poach" then they won't have a hard time finding a job.

        The reality is that most of them weren't. There is just no way that 60,000 is a reasonable number.

  • Let's do some math (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:11PM (#47843679)

    If there were 60,000 impacted workers and the no-poaching agreement lowered the average salary for them by $10,000 each/year than that would translate into $600,000,000/year that the agreement was in place. If we tap it out at 10 years that would be 6 Billion dollars in actual damages. Let's add on punitive damages as well because if the only costs associated with breaking the law is that if you get caught you have to pay what you would have paid in the first place there is no motivation to not illegally screw your workers. So we double that and have a possible jury verdict of 12 Billion Dollars

    However to be fair too the companies in question this is a settlement where to avoid the pain of lawyers and dragging it out they pay upfront. So let's reduce the total payout to 25% of what their potential liability would be. I think 3 Billion Dollars or 10X what they are currently offering might be a reasonable starting point for discussions

    • Agreed. Add to this fine a special penalty for senior officers (who are living) who had anything to do with this outrage. Something like forbidding them to cash in stock options for the next 3 years; or, forbidding them to pursue work outside their current company for a period of two years (to mimic the grif they caused workers who were "locked in" via their unlawful collusion.
      • forbidding them to pursue work outside their current company for a period of two years

        Nice idea, but you can't do that... that is slavery or indentured servitude, we outlawed that a long time ago...

        You can't tell someone where they must work.

        • The FCC and Financial regulators can ban you for life from working in that industry as can the AMA strike off a Doctor for malpractice
          • Yes, they are telling you where you can't work.

            I said that no one can tell you where you must work.

            The OP above me said that to give the CEOs a taste of their own medicine, they should be forced to work there for several years.

    • I think 3 Billion Dollars or 10X what they are currently offering might be a reasonable starting point for discussions

      Apple alone makes that in a few weeks, spread across those companies, even that amount wouldn't make a dent.

      If it was 30 billion, you might get their attention, but that amount would be absurd.

      • Why would that be absurd? When individuals are facing legal judgments, they often face huge figures that destroy their financial situation. Why should corporations be safeguarded against that risk?

        • Because if you fine an individual 3 million dollars and his/her net worth is only $30,000, they just declare bankruptcy and move on with life.

          Or not...

          But if you fine Apple into bankruptcy, you harm much more than just a few people within the company, you harm the economy, thousands of innocent workers, and many people related to the business who had nothing to do with it...

          It sounds so simple to just say, "fine, we'll take away their money, or their patents, or something..."

          But when the rubber meets the ro

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:20PM (#47843717)

    Google has an open meeting every Thursday. Open to employees, anyone can ask a question. I'd be really curious if they have an honest response as to why they are fighting or how they justify their previous actions.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:51PM (#47843827)
    They could look where companies didn't participate in this crime. Look at the top salaries(over the time period), subtract the salaries that people affected did get, multiply that by 60,000, multiply that by some punitive number, tag on a hefty percentage to make up for the lawyer's fees, and Bob's your uncle.

    So let's say the top competitive salaries were $150,000 and that people got $100,000 (probably a much larger spread), and that this all went on for an average of 5 years. So:

    5*50,000*1.5*1.3*60,000 which works out to around 29,250,000,000 or basically 30 billion dollars.

    Considering the amount of money these companies make from each employee this is actually a fairly reasonable number. Considering that this is 60,000 top tech people who then often lived in very expensive parts of the US their losses from these illegal actions were not insubstantial.

    My above numbers also assume a $50,000 dollar gap. Often with stocks and bonuses companies that weren't part of this cartel paid much higher, I know one top tier school math grad who is earning solidly in the $300,000 plus lots of perks and bonuses right out of school working for a large SF tech company.

    To put the $324.5 in perspective, a top employee who comes up with a cool feature or new product line could easily have generated that much profit for any one of the larger tech companies. An interesting example of this was in the history of GTA (which I recently read) where the original game had you playing the cops. It was apparently boring as hell. But some enterprising employee swapped it around and it was instant fun. That one guy effectively put the company on the map. The other game might have sent the company into the dusty shelves of mediocre game history.

    It is not that all 60,000 of the people in the lawsuit would generate that much money but that I suspect at least one of them did.
  • I read this as "Silicon Valley Fights In Order To Pay Bigger Settlement In Tech Talent Hiring Case"

    Now that totally reversed what the title was saying!

  • jail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yakasha ( 42321 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @11:06PM (#47844297) Homepage

    what kind of compensation or punitive action do you think is fair?

    Jail.

    Continuing the analogy given by the plaintiff, if you steal a $400 iPad, you're going to jail. So, send the fuckers to jail. There are emails, from individuals. Those individuals committed crimes. Put them in jail.

    Rich people & corporations have money, lots of it. And they can always get more. ANY financial penalty is "only money".

    We all have a limited amount of time on this planet. 10 years in prison should convince other CEOs to not be dumb again.

    • When you sue for damages you are in CIVIL COURT. That is a different system, you can't do jail time and about all you can do is deal with money.

      Stealing is a criminal offense; you'd have to find a criminal law on the books you could get them for doing this. I hear that racketeering criminal law was somewhat broad...

      As far as the amount of $$ as a civil case one shouldn't be able to sue as punishment but only for damages (which they seem to extend to the limit with mental harm etc.) This big corps always se

      • If you lose a civil case you can end up losing your job for example I know of an accountant who got convicted of fare dodging and was sacked because the employer could no longer trust them with money an non accountant might have got away with a final written warning.

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