Judge Dismisses Collusion Claims Against Software Company

By Tiffany Friesen Milone

April 13—Former employees seeking to recover for Microsoft Corp.'s alleged participation in a conspiracy among high-tech companies not to recruit each other's employees failed to show fraudulent concealment or a continuing violation and thus saw their claims deleted by a federal district court.

The court denied Microsoft's request that the lawsuit be moved to the Western District of Washington, but granted a motion to dismiss after finding the plaintiffs' claims to be time-barred. The court also is involved with a related case with overlapping issues (In re High-Tech Employees Litigation, N.D. Cal., No. 11-cv-02509,.

Microsoft had relied on a forum selection clause in its employment agreements with the two former workers. However, the court found that the clauses cover only those disputes requiring interpretation of the contracts, which does not include the lawsuit.

Microsoft “has failed to show that plaintiffs' claims ‘cannot be adjudicated without analyzing whether the parties were in compliance with the contract'” or that any other private or public interest factors weigh in favor of transfer.

However, the company established that all the claims are subject to a four-year statute of limitations and began to accrue in 2007. As the court could not agree that either the ascertainable damages or continuing-violation exceptions apply, it granted the motion to dismiss, albeit without prejudice, as “amendment would not necessarily be futile.” The former employees can elect to file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by this decision within 30 days, the court said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tiffany Friesen Milone in Washington at tmilone@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sheldon B. Richman at srichman@bna.com