Court Says Workers Can Sue Apple For Anti-Poaching Agreement

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A group of 64,000 Silicon Valley workers have won the right to pursue a lawsuit against a number of tech companies — including Apple — accused of an “overarching conspiracy” to keep employee pay low through anti-poaching agreements.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let stand an order by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh that will let the workers sue as a group, and pursue what defendants claim could be more than $9 billion of damages.

The significance of the class action certification is that this will allow the plaintiffs to potentially take home larger awards, at a lower cost than if they sued individually. It may also place pressure on the accused tech companies to settle.

The case first began in 2011 when five software engineers sued several companies including Apple over purposefully suppressing pay by making agreements not to recruit or hire each other’s employees. This would mean a violation of antitrust laws designed to protect against employers conspiring to eliminate competition that would drive up worker’s wages.

Much of the case is built on emails exchanged between Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt.

The trial is set to begin on May 27.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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