A federal lawsuit was filed on Monday claiming that not only Walt Disney Co, but also Sony Pictures and other companies specialized in animation and special effects had conspired to suppress wages through “no-raid” agreements.
The suit was filed in San Jose, California, at the U.S. District Court and also names DreamWorks Animtion SKG Inc, Digital Domain and Image MoversLLC as defendants. These companies also agreed that they would not poach employees from one and other, thus artificially depressing wages.
Another lawsuit had just been settled by Disney in July for $9 million, after salaried employees had accused the company of reaching no-raid agreements concerning the Californian technology industry. Now, the company has to deal with another lawsuit in which technical, artistic, research, development and creative employees are concerned.
The complaint accuses Disney of having made an agreement back in 1986 when Lucasfilm Ltd and Pixar (now both owned by Disney) agreed to neither outbid the pay offers made by the other, nor to poach each other’s employees. After this initial agreement, additional defendants entered into similar agreements.
There are countless emails pointed towards in the complaint where company executives adress these no-raid agreements. For instance, in one such email, Ed Catmull, Pixar president states that the poaching of employees from other companies by offering higher salaries would significantly “mess up the pay structure“. He also explains in other emails that animation companies had made it an effort of not raiding each other for employees.
The situation was so outrageous that human resources senior officers and senior recruiting personnel from the animation companies would have yearly meetings to compare employee salaries.
In response to the lawsuit, Disney spokespeople described it as being without merit and that the animation company would defend itself vigorously against the claims.
DreamWorks had its spokeswoman decline any comments.
This lawsuit comes only a few days after a similar lawsuit involving Apple, Intel and Google, which had come to an agreement concerning employee poaching, couldn’t be settled because of a = settlement proposal that was considered unbefitting of the crime. In her ruling, District Judge Lucy Koh refused to approve a $324 million settlement because she considered that the recovery for the class members wouldn’t be high enough in comparison with the Disney settlement that had been approved earlier.
Koh’s ruling is already being appealed by both Google Inc and Apple Inc who accused the judge of not correctly assessing the case.