No Conclusion in No Hire Lawsuit?

The New York Times is reporting this morning that a settlement is close in the class-action lawsuit brought against Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe for their discriminatory and illegal no-hire, no-solicit agreements amongst one another.

For those who haven’t been watching this case, those four companies (and previously also Intuit, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and eBay, who have since settled for pittances) have been accused by potential employees as having an agreement not to hire employees from the other companies. The proceedings have already led to the discovery of numerous emails documenting the process

I’d be very sorry to see this settled rather than set a precedent. I am fanatic about retaining employee mobility as society transitions further towards employees as disposable, transient resources. With the high-profile companies involved, this was a fantastic opportunity to clearly make this an illegal act for others considering the same.

This isn’t just theoretical either - I was nearly the victim of such an agreement back in 2009. A number of CEOs from bootstrapped Chicago companies and consultancies formed a networking group. The cost to entry was, amongst other things, an agreement not to solicit employees from any of the members of this group. When I reached out to Obtiva to work there in 2009, I was unlucky enough to work for one of the other members of this group.

I may have been rejected outright if it weren’t for the fact I found out about this and had a very lively conversation with my soon-to-be former employer. I was one of the fortunate ones though - I learned this was happening. Usually this unfair labor practice manifests itself in the form rejection letter, the unanswered email, or the strangely reticent recruiter. This isn’t even to mention the other victims like the Google recruiter that Steve Jobs had fired for daring to do his job in the face of these illegal agreements.

I’ll be crossing my fingers that this article is inaccurate, but I suspect not with the number of other companies that have already settled similar claims. It’s a shame - when a case like this settles for such small amounts, the only legal precedent becomes “don’t get caught.”

(On a side note - The New York Times has been fantastic in covering this case - virtually every meaningful update has been on page one of either their National or Business section. If you care about these things too, you might consider throwing them a few nickels)