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Are Silicon Valley tech giants violating employment laws?

It's a tough economy out there, but if a Detroit-area worker is lucky, he or she will occasionally get a call from a recruiter who is offering employment at another organization. These kinds of calls and offers help workers develop a sense of what their skills are worth on an open market; even if a worker does not take the offer, hr or she can leverage it with their current employer andnegotiate for better wages or nicer perks.

But in Silicon Valley, home to the U.S.'s hottest technology and internet companies, competition for talent is so fierce that firms have essentially agreed not to compete with each other so they can be assured of keeping their own employees. At least, those are the allegations made in a lawsuit filed in San Jose recently.

The plaintiffs claim that several major companies, including Apple and Google, had "gentleman's agreements" with each other not to lure away each other's employees. The plaintiffs claim they were harmed by these agreements because they stifled competition and impaired their freedom to seek employment wherever they wished,

Spokespeople for the companies accused of wrongdoing have denied any misconduct, but the plaintiffs include with their lawsuit several emails (including some from recently deceased Apple CEO Steve Jobs) that seemed to acknowledge some sort of d├ętente between them.

It will be very interesting to see how this case turns out. Its outcome could have a significant impact on the way employers are allowed to hire and retain their employees.

Source: The Indianapolis Star, "High-tech firms fight non recruit allegations," Jan. 30, 2012

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