According to Bloomberg, Judge Lucy Koh (yes, of the Apple-Samsung case as well) has ordered Tim Cook, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Intel’s Paul Otellini, and other tech company execs to be deposed in a class-action lawsuit filed by tech company employees over “do not call” no poaching practices. This lawsuit, claims not only damage to employee’s potential salaries, but also for violating a 2010 agreement with the Justice Department over the practice.
In a hearing yesterday that was supposed to determine if the class-action lawsuit could be certified to go forward, Judge Koh was disappointed that no senior executives from any of the companies (Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Pixar, Intuit, and Lucasfilm) had been deposed in the case. Remarking on Apple in particular:
Koh told lawyers yesterday that Apple founder Steve Jobs was copied on e-mails at issue in the case, and that she found it “hard to believe” that Cook, as Apple’s chief operating officer at the time in question, wouldn’t have been consulted about such agreements.
There was no timing given for Cook’s deposition, but Eric Schmidt will be deposed February 20th and Paul Otellini later this month. Lawyers for the companies, of course, objected to the court-ordered depositions, but Judge Koh proceeded.
The crux of the class-action suit is that employees were (essentially) denied better jobs and raises because rival companies had promised not to cold-call employees. This case doesn’t appear to pertain to non-compete clauses which are aimed at preventing people from working for competitors for a period of time.
Part of the argument employees are making hinges around cold-calls offering better salaries. After a better salary has been dangled in front of an employee, she goes to her boss to ask for a raise. One argument, then, is that the do-not-call practice kept salaries artificially lower. One of the industry lawyers said this to judge Koh on that topic:
“You can’t assume that if someone got a raise from a cold call” that the effect of that negotiation would “ripple to everybody else,” Mittelstaedt told Koh. “Why would a company give a raise to someone in a negotiation if it knew it had to turn around and give a raise to everyone else?”
Not sure if the lawyer’s logic is completely sound there, but regardless Judge Koh sided with the plaintiffs and ordered the depositions.
The case is: In Re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-2509, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose). The previous U.S. Justice Department anti-trust case that this suit alleges the companies are violating is: U.S. v. Adobe Systems, 10-cv-1629, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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