Silicon Valley workers unite in class-action against anti-poaching firms

A class-action trial in the Silicon Valley anti-poaching case is set to go ahead in May after a federal appeals court refused to hear tech companies’ argument that the plaintiffs should not be a class, according to a report in Reuters.

An estimated 60,000 Silicon Valley workers could seek damages for the harm lawyers allege they suffered as a result of a conspiracy by leaders at Apple, Google and other companies not to poach talent from one another. Employees argue that the agreements between the companies not to poach hurt workers in terms of job mobility and compensation. The tech companies estimate that damages could exceed $9 billion.

In 2010, some of the firms settled a case brought by the Department of Justice that accused them of anti-competitive behavior. As Howard Mintz reports, the remaining plaintiffs besides Apple and Google are Intel and Adobe.

The trial should be interesting coming at a time when talent commands a premium. But poaching is what Silicon Valley has long been about. Remember the old saying that if an engineer didn’t like a job, she or he could drive to a different parking lot? But the reality, as this case shows, is that the churn of employees can be highly frustrating for tech leaders.

There is an overlooked upside for companies when employees have job mobility -  ideas potentially flow more freely when employees move from firm to firm.  I don’t mean trade secrets but ways of thinking about technology and products. That constant cross pollination keeps Silicon Valley fresh.

 Above: Steve Jobs in 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)


Michelle Quinn Michelle Quinn (208 Posts)

Michelle Quinn is a Business Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Prior to her current role, she was the Silicon Valley correspondent at Politico covering tech policy and politics. She has also covered the tech industry at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a blogger for the New York Times.