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Employees grab Apple and Google's $325 MEEELLION olive branch in hiring suit

Companies look to settle complaint over wage-fixing

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A collection of some of Silicon Valley's biggest companies has struck a deal with employees to end their class-action suit over allegations that the companies colluded to prevent hiring away workers.

Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe have put forth a proposal which would see the companies contribute to a $324.5m settlement fund to be distributed amongst the plaintiffs in the class-action suit. The settlement has been approved by three of the class representatives, and has been sent to Judge Lucy Koh for approval.

The proposed settlement would pay the employees who are involved in the class action on the grounds that they not pursue any further individual actions against the companies. Payouts will depend on the salary of each employee at the time of the complaint.

If accepted, the suit would put to rest a three-year legal battle between the companies and agrieved employees who had been part of the class-action alleging that their wages were intentionally driven down when the companies entered into informal "no-poaching" agreements.

Those deals, which were reportedly championed by executives at the highest levels, including Apple cofounder Steve Jobs and Google boss Eric Schmidt, were informal arrangements in which management agreed not to target employees of the other firm when seeking to fill positions. The arrangements included executives addressing memos to management reinforcing the policy, and the disciplining of recruiters who sought to lure employees from participating companies.

Such a proposal was reportedly presented to, and rejected by, executives at Facebook. In a story that would later become evidence in the case, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg said that she had been approached by Google executives who had "expressed concern" over Facebook targeting Google employees.

The $324.5m settlement is just a fraction of the $3bn the claimants had originally sought when filing the suit. Despite the objections of one of the claimants, in agreeing to the terms the plaintiffs noted that the payout is preferable to engaging in an extended trial in which a jury could decide a smaller or no monetary award whatsoever. ®

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