The Hollywood Reporter reports that 21st Century Fox has sued streaming video company Netflix in Los Angeles Superior Court for improperly poaching its employees. In the lawsuit, the film and television studio claimed that Netflix ran a “brazen campaign to unlawfully target, recruit, and poach valuable Fox executives by illegally inducing them to break their employment contracts with Fox to work at Netflix.”
The lawsuit comes after Netflix hired former Fox21 TV Studios programming executive Tara Flynn and Fox film marketing executive Marcos Waltenberg – actions Fox believed to be a breach of contract. Fox claimed Flynn had signed an employment agreement through 2019, but Netflix argued that she was free to leave at any time. Waltenberg had a two-year deal with Fox through the year 2016, but the studio had the right to extend the contract another two years.
“This is a fascinating case,” commented Lieff Cabraser employment and antitrust lawyer Dean M. Harvey, raising as it does discussions on contractual exclusivity and how the entertainment industry follows California’s “seven-year rule” for these kinds of personal services contracts. This all began in the 1940s when actress Olivia de Havilland filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. for extending her contract without her consent.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Netflix, flush with its $40 billion market cap, has been on a hiring spree, and the suit highlights the animosity its growth has engendered at traditional studios and the differences in cultures with Hollywood, where executive contracts are common and outright poaching is rare.”
Upholding Employee Rights
Lieff Cabraser has a strong tradition of fighting for employee rights across America. Our employment law class action cases challenge (a) discrimination based on employees’ race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; (b) wage violations, including failure to pay overtime, break time, or vacation time; and (c) misuse of employees’ retirement benefits. We also represent employees who “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing by their employers as well as in other cases alleging violations of the law.
About Dean Harvey
A partner in Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office, Dean Harvey represents individuals and companies in antitrust, business tort, employment, and intellectual property litigation. His cases seek to remedy and prevent wrongful conduct by dominant firms. These precedent-setting lawsuits concern a wide variety of industries and markets. Remedies include reimbursing purchasers who have overpaid for price-fixed products; preventing monopolists from stifling innovation and eliminating competition; and obtaining damages for businesses, inventors, and copyright owners.
Mr. Harvey was a leader in the High-Tech Antitrust class action against Google, Apple, Intel and other tech giants for allegedly conspiring to suppress the mobility and compensation of their technical employees. This landmark case resulted in the largest recovery (by far) of any class action asserting antitrust claims in the employment context: $435 million. Mr. Harvey continues the fight to ensure that employees receive competitive compensation, currently representing a doctor in a class action alleging an unlawful no-hire agreement between the medical schools of Duke University and the University of North Carolina.