A lawsuit filed in California alleges that Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe Systems, Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm entered into a web of agreements to eliminate competition for skilled labor, violating antitrust laws by effectively fixing employee pay. These same companies settled a civil suit and Department of Justice investigation in September 2010 by agreeing to stop using “do not cold call” lists, that helped them from actively recruiting employees from their named competitors.
A lawyer for Siddarth Hariharan, the former Lucasfilm employee that filed the class action lawsuit, stated that affected workers have been paid 10 to 15 percent less due to the reduced competition resulting from the cooperation of the high-tech companies. The lawsuit seeks restitution for lost compensation and damages for affected employees for a five-year period for calendar years 2005 to 2010.
The settlement that followed the Department of Justice investigation did not include any compensation for past losses by employees, or require the companies to increase pay for employees that may have been affected by artificially suppressed salaries. This leaves many employees and former employees potentially eligible for damages.
“My colleagues at Lucasfilm and I applied our skills, knowledge, and creativity to make the company an industry leader. It’s disappointing that, while we were working hard to make terrific products that resulted in enormous profits for Lucasfilm, senior executives of the company cut deals with other premiere high-tech companies to eliminate competition and cap pay for skilled employees,” said Hariharan.
According to the lawsuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm began the practice in 2005 and it shortly expanded to include Apple and Adobe Systems. It states that afterward, Google and Apple entered into a similar agreement, followed by additional deals between Apple and Pixar, Google and Intel, and Google and Intuit. If the scope of the suit is true, tens of thousands of workers have been affected by potentially unfair business practices.
The responses of the named companies has ranged from no comment to statements that the suit is completely meritless.