Judge OKs class-action suit against Apple, Intel, Google, Adobe
"Steve Jobs conspired to limit the workers' pay by barring them from moving from one company to another."
SAN JOSE -- More than 60,000 tech workers can seek monetary damages from Apple (AAPL), Intel (INTC), Google (GOOG) and Adobe Systems (ADBE) because of a federal judge's ruling in a suit claiming that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs conspired with other local executives to limit the workers' pay by barring them from moving from one company to another.
In granting class-action status to the suit Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose cited what she termed "considerable, compelling common proof" that the Silicon Valley companies engaged in antitrust behavior by agreeing not to try to lure away each others' employees.
Koh's decision makes it much easier for the workers to win compensation -- potentially tens of millions of dollars -- because without class-action status, each of them would have to file costly lawsuits on their own. The ruling also is likely to put pressure on the companies to reach a financial settlement with the workers, as three other companies -- Pixar, Lucasfilm and Intuit (INTU) -- did in July, said Stephen Hirschfeld, CEO of the Employment Law Alliance, a network of labor and employment lawyers.
Although a trial in the case has been set for May 27, companies in class-action cases often try to avoid getting that far, he said, because "there is an assumption that if they actually get in front of a jury and there are thousands of plaintiffs, a jury will think, 'Well, if there's smoke, there must be fire.' "
Judith Zahid, a San Francisco lawyer specializing in antitrust matters, said the sued companies face an additional problem if the case goes to trial because, under antitrust law, any damage award against them would be automatically tripled.
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