United States District Judge Lucy Koh today approved a $415 million settlement in the Silicon Valley no-poaching case. The dollar figure comes after a previous $324 million settlement was rejected as being too low.
More than 64,000 workers are part of the case. The suit stems from a secret agreement among large tech firms like Google, Apple and Intel to not poach employees from one another. The effect of that sort of arrangement depresses employee mobility, and, therefore, wages.
Perhaps the victory that results here on behalf of the working portion of Silicon Valley is moral, but it still feels light. The dollar figure, before taxes and the like, is just under $6,500 apiece. The amount is based on the individual base salaries between 2005 and 2009 of the workers listed in the suit.
There’s no way to tell what each individual would be able to negotiate for themselves over the years, had the policy not been in place, but given what we know about technology salaries today, the settlement amount is paltry.
The case has proven an embarrassment to the companies, who spend heavily on employee retention and care; a pledge to have a pool for employee use is nice, but when you are working at the same time to systemically limit the earnings potential of your staff, the side-hug can feel slightly disingenuous.
Facebook was a notable ‘no’ to the agreement. You can spin that as Facebook having its own employees’ best interest in mind, or that it was hot enough back then that it didn’t want to disarm. Regardless, its decision stands out.
We must do whatever we can to stop cold calling each other’s employees and other competitive recruiting efforts between the companies.
The dollar amount in question is sufficiently diminutive that it’s doubtful that it contains much in the way of a corrective lesson for the companies at fault. Still, it’s something.