Antitrust Concerns Raised When Competitors Get Too Cozy

When competitors make agreements with one another about what they will charge, the territories they will divide, the customers each will sell or the employees they will hire, red flags should raise because antitrust issues may be implicated. Last year I wrote about the settlement several Silicon Valley technology companies reached with the US Department of Justice's Antitrust Division over their agreements not to cold-call recruit each others employees

Last week, Bloomberg reported on the follow-along civil claim being asserted by a group of tech company employees who claim that their wages were unlawfully depressed by the agreements that were the subject of the DOJ settlement.  According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, the unlawful conspiracy to violate the antitrust laws had the effect of artificially depressing employee wages that could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.  Regardless of the merits of the civil conspiracy action, it has and will take millions of dollars for the employers to defend the DOJ Antitrust investigation and the resulting civil action.  Competitors must  be careful when they work with one another to ensure not only that their actions comply with the relevant employment laws, but also with state and federal antitrust laws.

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The EEOC Wants You to Consider Hiring this Guy.

The EEOC is reviewing whether the use of arrest and criminal conviction information acts as a hiring barrier and whether employers should be precluded from asking about criminal convictions.  The EEOC publicized the meeting in a press release titled  Striking a Balance Between Workplace Fairness and Workplace Safety.  Particularly troubling about this hearing is the fact that the EEOC appears to be looking at the issue as one of workplace fairness rather than discrimination.  Workplace fairness is admirable, however, the EEOC's mission and mandate is not to try and achieve workplace fairness.  The EEOC's mission is educate, investigate and enforce the protections put in place by Title VII and related laws.  Stated differently, the EEOC is charged with ensuring that individuals are not treated differently because of their race, sex, color, religion, national original, age, and disability; not to ensure that the workplace is fair.

In my experience, few (if any) employers ask for or rely on arrest information in making hiring decision.  I've never seen an employment application that stated that a criminal conviction would be an outright bar to employment.  Most employers that seek criminal conviction information consider the nature and severity of the offense, the length of time since the offense occurred and the position for which the applicant is applying.  Banning the box (i.e., prohibiting employers from asking about criminal convictions on applications) will result in employers needlessly interviewing applicants who, by the nature or severity of their crime, will not ultimately be hired.  This is a waste of employer time and resources.  Moreover, given the EEOC's limited resources, its time, effort and money would be better spent on core mission rather than trying to administratively expand the scope of Title VII to effectively make convicted felons a protected class.

Follow me on Twitter @RussellCawyer.