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Suit Alleges Silicon Valley Execs Conspired To Keep Wages Low

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law on October 30th, 2013

Class action lawsuit in an alleged “overarching conspiracy”

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose has granted class action status to a lawsuit alleging an “overarching conspiracy” amongst major Silicon Valley companies to suppress employee compensation obtained from moving from one company to another.

By winning the class action certification, the more than 60,000 plaintiffs made up of technical employees including: software and hardware engineers, component designers, application developers, among others, now have more leverage to seek larger financial settlements than if they were to sue individually.

In 2011, five software engineers sued Adobe Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Apple Inc., and Google Inc., among others over their hiring practices, alleging that the Silicon Valley companies conspired with other local executives to limit the workers’ pay by barring them from moving from one company to another, thus suppressing employee compensation to artificially low levels.

In conspiring to eliminate competition for labor and depriving workers of job mobility as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation, the defendants were accused of violating the Sherman Act and Clayton Act antitrust laws.

In their original complaint, the plaintiffs sought certification of an “All Employee” class that would include every salaried employee throughout the United States who worked for the defendant companies between 2005 and 2009. That number was estimated to be more than 100,000.

The plaintiffs limited their class action group, now down to 60,000 after Judge Koh said they had yet to show enough in common amongst these proposed class members to allow them to sue together.

Much of the case built on email exchanges

The case has been closely watched in Silicon Valley as much of it has been built on email exchanges between top executives, including the late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs as well as former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt.

In granting class-action status to the suit Koh 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.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

Construction Workers to Receive Unpaid Wages After 6 Years

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law on September 16th, 2013

Workers Were Not Paid Pevailing Wages

2,051 construction workers, who were employed by Hensel Phelps Construction Company and 172 subcontractors, will now finally receive the wages they are owed for working on the 1,190-room Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel from 2006 to 2008.

California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su announced that $8,072,273 in unpaid prevailing wages has been collected on behalf of the workers in the Commission’s latest sweep to hold contractors and subcontractors accountable for labor law violations in California.

The workers were responsible for almost every aspect of the project; including a wide variety of tasks ranging from foundation drilling to concrete pouring to erection of steel, and even landscaping. Christine Baker, director of the state’s Department of Industrial Relations, determined that the project was a public work because it was paid for out of public funds due to a $46.5 million rent credit provided by the Port of San Diego, which leased the land to the hotel owner.

The San Diego Superior Court issued a writ of mandate reversing the determination of Baker and finding the project was not a public work. The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District reversed the trial court and affirmed Baker’s decision.

“This office will vigorously enforce prevailing wage law to collect all of the wages owed to workers,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “Prevailing wage laws help ensure that public dollars are used to fund quality construction and good jobs that can support families in California.”

Unpaid wages exceed $8 million

A third party administrator will be paid by Hensel Phelps Construction Company to handle claims for the $8,072,273 owed to the workers. In addition, Hansel will help defray the investigation costs by paying an additional $400,000 to the Labor Commissioner.

The Labor Commissioner’s office reported that last year, more wages and penalties were assessed on public works jobs than any year since 2002.

If you feel your employer has not complied with prevailing wage laws, or has withheld wages from you, it’s important that you look into your legal options with a lawyer who can help.

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