Every employer is concerned about competition. Any successful company will find it employees the target of job recruiters looking to take the assembled talent elsewhere. But what if a group of companies was so successful that they came to a secret agreement to specifically not target one another's employees?
A lawsuit filed recently in federal court accuses several big-name technology companies, including Google, Intuit, Adobe, Pixar, Intel, Lucasfilm and Apple of doing just that. Not only did the agreement prevent a drain of talent from one company to another, the plaintiffs say, it also led to artificially low salaries by eliminating the competitive process.
The companies, however, say that there was no conspiracy -- far from it, in fact. They say there have been agreements from time to time between two companies that might be working on a project together. But there was no collusion, they say.
The plaintiffs contend that because the companies' recruiters would not contact employees at rival companies, it decreased the employees' value on the open market. They wouldn't be able to find out what they might be able to earn if they were to take their talents elsewhere. The companies say that simply isn't true and that the emails being presented are distorted versions of the truth.
Regardless of what the real story is, as a business owner it's important to be sure to keep clear records of agreements and make sure they're legitimate, lest they come back to bite you later on if they are shown to be in violation of regulations -- either specific laws or just best practices.
Source: USA Today, "Lawsuit: Tech firms conspired on hiring," Marcus Wohlsen, Jan. 29, 2012