Judge Lucy Koh strikes again. Last year, we called her the "most powerful woman in Silicon Valley," due to her status as the presiding judge over the Apple v. Samsung patent infringement trial. Since then, she's upheld a class-action lawsuit against Google over its email scanning practices, and now, has upheld another class-action against Google, Apple, Adobe and Intel for unfair labor practices, reports Reuters.
But, but, Google has free food, you say. And laundry, a gym, and other insane perks. They're legendary for their positive treatment of employees!
The company also, allegedly, agreed with the other defendants not to poach each other's talent. And when all of the major companies conspire to keep talent from moving around the valley, it depresses those employees' salaries and career opportunities.
Issues of Commonality
Initially, the plaintiffs attempted to have every employee of every one of the connected companies certified as part of a single mega-class of more than 100,000. Judge Koh, however, said that the prospective members of the class had too little in common to allow a single suit. As the Supreme Court said in Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes:
"'What matters to class certification ... is not the raising of common 'questions'-- even droves -- but, rather the capacity of a classwide proceeding to generate common answers apt to drive the resolution of the litigation. Dissimilarities within the proposed class are what have the potential to impede the generation of common answers.'"
Engineers get screwed differently than coders, differently than blog writers, and differently than legal staff. Demand varies by job classification, so the suits may have to proceed as a series of classes of employee types. Indeed, that seems to be the strategy at this point, as the present class is limited to technical employees, which includes software and hardware engineers, designers, and product developers, a class of more than 50,000 people, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The plaintiffs argued that individual damages were insufficiently large to warrant case-by-case lawsuits. Judge Koh agreed, ruling that the individual interests, as well as the defendants' alleged overarching conspiracy warranted class-action litigation.
Proving the Conspiracy
According to the plaintiffs, the conspiracy was hatched between Apple's late Chairman and Chief Executive Steve Jobs, and others who sat on the board of directors for both Apple and the other co-defendants' boards. Much like the Apple E-book antitrust case, the plaintiffs have emails discussing the conspiracy.
- Judge Pressures Apple to Settle E-book Price-Fixing Lawsuit? (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
- Apple E-Book Price Fixing: Judge Orders Permanent Injunction (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
- Google, Apple hit with antitrust labor suit (Inside Counsel)