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Animation Workers Reach $100 Million Settlement With Disney in Wage-Fixing Suit

Animation workers have reached a $100 million settlement with the Walt Disney Company, Pixar, and Lucasfilm in a class action lawsuit claiming that the defendants violated antitrust laws by conspiring to set animation wages via non-poaching agreements.

Also part of the settlement are Two Pic MC, formerly known as ImageMovers.

The settlement was disclosed in a court filing on Tuesday.

Disney and its companies were the last remaining defendants in the litigation. Earlier this month, a federal judge gave preliminary approval to a $50 million settlement with DreamWorks Animation, following previous settlements of $13 million with Sony Imageworks and $5.95 million with Blue Sky. All of the sums will be put in a settlement fund.

The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by Robert Nitsch, a former DreamWorks Animation senior character effects artist; David Wentworth, a former ImageMovers Digital production engineer; and Georgia Cano, a digital artist who held jobs at Rhythm & Hues, Walt Disney Feature Animation, and ImageMovers Digital. The legal filing says that each of the plaintiffs plan to seek service awards that would amount to $100,000 for the entire litigation.

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 contended, with agreements on such things as cold calling and notifying each other when making an offer to an employee of another company. In addition, the lawsuit claimed that the company making such an offer would not increase the compensation offered to the prospective employee in its offer if the company currently employing the employee made a counteroffer.

The class of employees include animation and visual effects employees at Pixar between 2004 – 2010; Lucasfilm between 2004 and 2010, DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. from 2004 to 2010, the Walt Disney Company from 2004 to 2010, Sony Pictures Animation Inc. and Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. from 2004 to 2010, Blue Sky Studios, Inc. from 2005 to 2010 and Two Pic MC, formerly ImageMovers Digital, from 2007 to 2010.

The litigation has its origins in 2010 Department of Justice antitrust complaints against Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm, in which the companies agreed to refrain from wage-fixing practices for a period of five years.

Lucasfilm and Pixar later settled civil  litigation in 2013 after a group of Silicon Valley workers named the companies in wage fixing lawsuits. Other companies also settled, including Adobe, Apple, Google, and Intel, which agreed to pay $415 million. That settlement was approved in 2015.

A hearing on the Disney settlement is scheduled for March 9 in U.S. District Court in San Jose.

 

 

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