×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Judge Refuses to Dismiss Revised Animation Workers’ Wage-Fixing Lawsuit

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that the Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks Animation, Sony ImageWorks and other companies violated antitrust laws by conspiring to set animation wages via non-poaching agreements.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, in a ruling issued on Thursday, said that the plaintiffs “have sufficiently alleged facts showing that defendants reached an agreement to conspire.”

She wrote that the plaintiffs “have alleged that the defendants systematically shared information, agreed not to solicit each other’s employees and that the purpose of the information sharing and no-poach scheme was to suppress wages.”

The lawsuit was filed by former DreamWorks Animation senior character effects artist Robert Nitsch, former ImageMovers Digital production engineer David Wentworth and digital artist Georgia Cano, who held jobs at Rhythm & Hues, Walt Disney Feature Animation and ImageMovers Digital.

In April, she threw out their complaint, citing the statute of limitations. But in her most recent ruling, Koh said that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged “affirmative acts” of concealment in their revised complaint, sufficient to toll the statute of limitations.

 The workers contend that the roots of the anti-poaching agreements go back to the mid-1980s, when George Lucas and Ed Catmull, the president of Steve Jobs’ newly formed company Pixar, agreed to not raid each other’s employees.

Other companies then joined the conspiracy, the suit contends, with agreements on such things as cold calling and notifying each other when making an offer to an employee of another company. The lawsuit cited emails between Catmull and human resources personnel, and it also claimed that Jobs and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, “personally discussed DreamWorks joining the conspiracy.”

Also named as defendants in the suit were ImageMovers, Blue Sky Studios, Lucasfilm and Pixar.

Lucasfilm and Pixar were already targets of a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit in 2010, along with Apple, Google, Adobe Systems, Intel Corp. and Intuit, in which the government contended that their “no solicitation” agreements prevented highly skilled employees from commanding better wages and job opportunities. The companies settled the litigation by agreeing to end such practices for a period of five years.

But a class-action civil suit was filed in 2011, and during the litigation, emails were disclosed that appeared to link other companies to the “no poaching” agreements, including Disney and DreamWorks Animation, which were not named defendants in either that lawsuit or the Justice Department action. In a settlement Koh approved last May, Lucasfilm and Pixar agreed to pay $9 million, and Intuit agreed to pay $11 million.

News of the judge’s decision was first reported in the Hollywood Reporter.

More Biz

  • Kirk Kerkorian

    Kirk Kerkorian's Estate Settles With Widow for $12.5 Million

    The estate of late media mogul Kirk Kerkorian has a reached a settlement with his widow, who claimed she was entitled to a third of his $1.8 billion fortune. Una Davis will receive just $12.5 million under the deal, which is set for court approval on Wednesday. Davis married the mogul in March 2014, becoming [...]

  • Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg Strictly

    Variety's Innovate Summit 2018: What We Learned

    New insights into how data collection plays a role in the tech and entertainment spheres were revealed at Variety’s annual Innovate summit held in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg discussed the exciting future of television designed for mobile phone viewing with their new streaming platform, “Quibi,” an executive from “The Ellen Show” discussed the [...]

  • Capitol Music Group Names Amber Grimes

    Capitol Music Group Names Amber Grimes Senior VP of Global Creative

    Amber Grimes has been named to the newly-created position of Senior Vice President of Global Creative for Capitol Music Group, it was announced today by Chairman & CEO Steve Barnett, to whom Grimes will report. According to the announcement, in her new position, Grimes will be integrally involved in formulating and executing the company’s global [...]

  • Kevin Hart

    Why Kevin Hart's Mea Culpa Was Too Little, Too Late (Opinion)

    Forgive me if this sounds trite or preachy, but the importance of owning up to our mistakes cannot be overstated. Denials, silence, cover-ups, repudiation — all are unacceptable. Media outlets around the globe, including ours, wrote about how Kevin Hart initially took no responsibility for having posted disgusting homophobic tweets years ago that resurfaced when [...]

  • Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Industry Execs

    Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Industry Execs Sign Anti-Brexit Letter

    Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Paloma Faith, Ed Sheeran manager Stuart Camp and Grammy/Emmy award-winning film composer David Arnold and several leading UK music industry bodies are among the signees of a letter drafted by the new organization Music4EU, stating that Brexit “represents a significant threat to the UK’s music industry” and [...]

  • Kevin Hart Oscars Gay Tweet Controversy

    What Public Figures Should Learn From the Kevin Hart Oscars Debacle (Guest Column)

    When social media erupted over Kevin Hart’s anti-gay tweets from years ago, many in the media and the entertainment industry believed he would immediately apologize, LGBTQ people would critique but ultimately accept his mea culpa, and the comedian would go on to host the Academy Awards. If offenders make a commitment to do better, their [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content