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DreamWorks Animation, Disney sued over alleged no-poaching scheme

Hollywood companies including Walt Disney are accused in a suit of agreeing not to poach each other's staff

DreamWorks Animation SKG, the Walt Disney Co. and other Hollywood companies are targets of a class-action lawsuit that accuses the animation and visual effects giants of agreeing not to poach each other's workers.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in San Jose, said the companies "agreed to work together to deprive thousands of workers" of better wages and positions at other firms. 

The complaint also names Disney's Pixar and Lucasfilm Ltd. units, Sony Pictures Animation and Digital Domain 3.0 among the defendants. It accuses the companies of conspiring to fix the wages of animators, digital artists, software engineers and other workers and making "non-solicitation" agreements with each other.

The plaintiff in the case is Robert A. Nitsch Jr., who worked as a senior character effects artist at DreamWorks Animation from 2007-11. He currently resides in Massachusetts, according to the complaint.

"Defendants conspired not to actively solicit each other’s employees and to fix their employees’ wage and salary ranges as part of one overarching conspiracy to suppress the compensation of their employees and other class members," the complaint said. 

For example, the complaint said, then-Pixar Chief Executive Steve Jobs and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg had agreed to not actively pursue each others' employees by no later than 2004.

"We believe this complaint is utterly without merit and intend to defend against it vigorously," Disney said in an emailed statement.

DreamWorks Animation declined to comment.

The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount of money including compensatory damages and legal costs, plus a permanent injunction to prohibit anti-poaching agreements.

This complaint comes after a similar lawsuit against tech giants Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. In that case, the tech workers and the defendants agreed to a $324.5-million settlement, but it was rejected by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

Monday, 3:04 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Disney and no-comment from DreamWorks Animation.

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