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Netflix Faces Order to Stop Poaching Fox Employees

A judge on Monday indicated that he will forbid Netflix from poaching employees from Fox, following more than three years of litigation.

In a tentative ruling, Judge Marc Gross granted Fox’s request for an injunction against Netflix. The ruling is expected to become final within the next few days, though Netflix is expected to appeal.

Fox filed suit in 2016, accusing the streamer of inducing two employees to break their fixed-term contracts. Netflix countersued, arguing that Fox — now owned by Disney — forces its employees to sign “unconscionable” agreements which ought to be declared invalid.

Gross ruled in Fox’s favor on the latter question back in June, finding that Fox’s contracts with the two employees — Marcos Waltenberg and Tara Flynn — were valid, and that Netflix had improperly interfered with them. Fox argued at the time that Netflix had continued to poach employees since the suit was filed, and asked for an injunction.

After further deliberation, Gross ruled in favor of Fox again on Monday. He reiterated that Netflix does not have standing to contest the validity of Fox’s contracts, and granted the request for an injunction.

“Netflix shall not solicit employees who are subject to valid Fixed-Term Employment Agreements with Fox or induce such employees to breach their valid Fixed-Term Employment Agreements with Fox,” he stated in a 48-page ruling.

Fox had sought a nominal $1 in damages, but Gross found — in keeping with his prior ruling — that there is not enough evidence to establish damages. That issue, he said, would have to be left to a jury to decide. Though a trial is scheduled for January, it is doubtful things will go that far, as Fox, having made its point, seems unlikely to pursue a jury trial to recover $1.

For its part, Netflix is likely to take the case to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal — leaving the fundamental issue unsettled for now.

“As Judge Gross wrote, Fox failed to prove it was hurt in any way when two executives decided to exercise their right to go to Netflix,” the streamer said in a statement. “Fox’s illegal contracts force employees to remain trapped in jobs they no longer wish to do and at salaries far below market rate. We will continue to fight to make sure that people who work in the entertainment industry have the same rights as virtually every other Californian and can make their own choices about where they work.”

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