California Probing Employers’ ‘No-Poach’ Pacts

State attorneys general are investigating how employers collude to prohibit workers from switching jobs through unlawful “no-poach” agreements, reported Bloomberg. 

California is leading the way, with investigations in the works after some big actions against the fast food industry and Silicon Valley. “We approach this as a core economic justice issue,” said Eleanor Blume, California Department of Justice special assistant attorney general.

“This is one where we have workers’ rights and market manipulation all wrapped up in one, which makes it really important for us,” she said in an interview. “More will be coming.”

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No-poach agreements are arrangements among employers not to recruit each other’s workers or to fix wages or other terms of employment among a pool of workers. Antitrust regulators argue they can reduce worker mobility, depress worker wages, and stifle competition.

States can buttress federal antitrust laws with additional unfair labor practice rules such as detailing what constitutes employer coercion, interference, or retaliation. Many states have recently gone further than federal law, enacting stricter standards for corporations operating in their jurisdictions.

One of the first major no-poach cases occurred in 2010 in California when the Justice Department settled with Adobe Systems Inc., Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp., Intuit Inc., and Pixar to prevent the companies from entering into no-solicitation agreements for employees.