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US Justice Dept. Investigates IT Hiring Practices

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the let's-share-this-back-scratcher dept.

Businesses 223

Zecheus writes "The Wall Street Journal (no paywall on this story) reports that the Justice Department is 'stepping up' an investigation of hiring practices of US technology firms, such as Google, Intel, IBM, and Apple. From the article: 'The inquiry is focused on whether companies, particularly in the technology sector, have agreed not to recruit each other's employees in ways that violate antitrust law. Specifically, the probe is looking into whether the companies' hiring practices are costing skilled computer engineers and other workers opportunities to change jobs for higher pay or better benefits.'"

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223 comments

Sexism (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31802648)

As a 49 yo grandmother, C programmer and techie, I'd say sexism is a major problem in IT hiring. Its offensive.

Re:Sexism (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31802778)

Apostrophes, know how to use them. /IHBT

Speaking of screwing, screw the WSJ for paywalls. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31802806)

U.S. Steps Up Probe Of Hiring In Tech

By THOMAS CATAN And BRENT KENDALL

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department is stepping up its investigation into hiring practices at some of America's biggest companies, including Google Inc., Intel Corp., International Business Machines Corp., Apple Inc. and IAC/InterActiveCorp., people familiar with the matter said.

The inquiry is focused on whether companies, particularly in the technology sector, have agreed not to recruit each others' employees in ways that violate antitrust law. Specifically, the probe is looking into whether the companies' hiring practices are costing skilled computer engineers and other workers opportunities to change jobs for higher pay or better benefits.
WSJ Professional

        * Tech Workers Face Tough Market
        * Recruiter: Sector Analysis: IT and Telecoms

After a probe that began more than a year ago, Justice Department investigators have concluded that such agreements do raise significant competitive concerns, according to the people familiar with the matter.

But the leadership of the antitrust division hasn't yet decided whether—or how—to challenge the hiring practices, these people said. About a dozen companies are meeting with top antitrust officials at the Justice Department this week and next, some to defend their practices, others to provide information.

Antitrust experts say the Justice Department could argue that an agreement between competitors that holds down labor costs is as much a violation of antitrust laws as an agreement to fix prices.

Such agreements are "very close to the line," said Melissa Maxman, an antitrust lawyer at the law firm Cozen O'Connor. "They're not agreeing on price, but they're kind of agreeing on costs." Skilled computer scientists with some management responsibilities, for instance, often make base salaries of $180,000 to $210,000. Compensation for the most sought-after workers typically soars far above that and includes bundles of stock options and bonuses.

The Justice Department hasn't confirmed the existence of the investigation, and a spokeswoman declined to comment Friday. But several companies said they have received requests for information on the way they hire employees.

"IBM is one of many companies that have been contacted by government officials in a broad-ranging inquiry of technology and nontechnology companies regarding hiring practices," said company spokesman Edward Barbini. "We are collaborating with the government's inquiry."

Some companies are defending their recruiting practices. "Since investigations of this nature are confidential, we will not comment on what the Department of Justice may or may not be doing," said Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy. "However," he said, "we believe our hiring practices are lawful and don't harm competition."

Google declined to comment. Apple and IAC didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Behind the scenes, technology companies are making the case that agreements among companies are not anticompetitive and don't affect employees' salaries or the availability of jobs. They say such agreements are commonplace, used by companies to maintain good relationships with business partners.

Some tech companies also say the agreements under investigation only stop them from cold calling each other's employees, not from hiring them.

The technology industry makes the case that it would be harder to enter into collaborative ventures with other companies if they fear losing valuable employees.

But Justice Department lawyers could respond that such agreements distort the labor market, theoretically harming the economy by cutting incentives for other people to enter such fields.

"In the long run, this is going to distort and depress the incentives for people to actually develop the talents and skills that are useful in this market," said Salil Mehra, a Temple University law professor who formerly worked in the Justice Department's antitrust division.

Policing the labor markets hasn't been a central focus of antitrust enforcers in recent years. But the Justice Department did act against what it saw as efforts to manipulate the labor market. It brought a civil case against a group of hospitals in Utah in 1994, alleging that they had illegally conspired to hold down nurses' wages by exchanging information about their pay.

A year later, it took action against the American Bar Association for allegedly using its accreditation process to force universities to raise law-school salaries. Both cases were settled.

The current investigation is the latest by antitrust enforcers to take aim at the often close-knit relations between tech companies, particularly in Silicon Valley.

The Federal Trade Commission's ongoing investigation into interlocking boards of tech companies forced Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, to resign from the board of Apple.

Another casualty of the FTC probe was Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson, who stepped down from Google's board. He had been doing double duty as a director for Apple and Google until the FTC started asking questions.

More recently, the decision by legendary venture-capital investor John Doerr to resign from Amazon.com's board was influenced by the FTC investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Doerr—who recently declined to comment — is also on the board of Google.
—Don Clark and Jessica E. Vascellaro contributed to this article.

Write to Brent kendall at brent.kendall@dowjones.com

Re:Sexism (2, Interesting)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802850)

I'm afraid at your age you are subject to two discriminatory categories. If you started working as a programmer in the 1980s, you must have been pretty determined to put up with the rest of us (men) during that era. I'd hire you - if I had a job.

Re:Sexism (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803616)

Old troll is old. If the originator of that comment was actually real, she hasn't been on /. for a while.

Here We Go ... (0, Troll)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802652)

A "gentlemen's agreement" between companies not to pilfer employees isn't a bad thing ... unless you're not one of those companies. Didn't Apple poach their latest iPod manager from IBM [informationweek.com] ? Doesn't sound like they always play by the rules of their "agreement".

Re:Here We Go ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31802702)

A "gentlemen's agreement" between companies not to pilfer employees isn't a bad thing ... unless you're not one of those companies.

Or unless you're employed by one of those companies. Artificially limiting an Engineer's ability to get another job which could offer better compensation or more interesting technical challenges is wrong.

Re:Here We Go ... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803798)

When cold war tech warriors drifted out of US and UK gov jobs into the private sector we had a tech boom. Govs around the world enjoyed a flow from a new tax source.
When quality developers drift out of US and UK companies into the private sector and compete with their former masters we have ...
a gentlemen's agreement to keep them techcropping.

Re:Here We Go ... (5, Interesting)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802794)

It isn't bad for the company's, but it sure sucks for the employees. That is the point of the investigation. Several years ago when I was working for a major telecom billing system vendor in Saint Louis I was trying to find work elsewhere. Every head hunter in the city told me the same thing: they wouldn't talk to me while I still worked for that vendor. It seems that vendor was a major client of all of the head hunters as they were doing a lot of hiring at the time, and told the head hunters they would not deal with them again if they ever found out that they had helped one of their employees (like me) find a job somewhere else. So it made it that much more difficult to find other work. I did eventually, but this is very much like the situation in the article. In fact I think this is likely way more prevalent and is what the government should be looking at. But it is also very difficult to combat, so they will likely only go after the low hanging fruit; as in cases like Google, MS, IBM, etc.

Mod .sig +5 insightful (3, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803000)

Your sig: "The upset over a missed deadline goes away much faster than the terrible taste of a bad product."

Mod +5 insightful.

Re:Here We Go ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803560)

Sounds like you worked for Scamdocs...err, Amdocs.

Re:Here We Go ... (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803956)

I find this idea a little puzzling. How can the J.D. investigate what companies do to their employees when the events discussed are in other sovereign states? India [slashdot.org] is clearly out of the J.D.'s Jurisdiction. But calling "Hiring Practices" a Trade Secret, to me, is analogous to Economic Slavery; am I the only one that finds this disturbing? It also insults the intelligence of those who are victimized by hearing it.

Re:Here We Go ... (3, Funny)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802886)

It sounds more like a "hiqhwaymen's agreement" to me.

Re:Here We Go ... (2, Insightful)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802964)

  1. The CEO of Palm, Jon Rubenstein, was hired away from Apple where had a senior vice president position (before Palm came out with the Pre).
  2. Apple hired away an IBM processor expert, which caused IBM to quickly file a non-compete suit against the person/Apple in New York state. (Non-completes are illegal in California) Apple, thus, had to wait a long time before they got the person they wanted to head what we now know as the A4 chip (which obviously does not compete with IBM's chip offerings)

These are two really high profile examples, I'm sure there are a lot more... If anything, competition between Google and Apple is really heating up (as shown on many a slashdot discussion board), so poaching employees is probably not out of the realm of possibility.

Re:Here We Go ... (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803214)

Jon Rubenstein, was hired away from Apple

Incorrect. Rubenstein retired from Apple. Palm convinced him to come out of retirement.

-jcr

Re:Here We Go ... (3, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803786)

I'm not kidding about this. Rubinstein retired in March, 2006. Palm got him to join their R&D group the following year, and he didn't become their CEO until 2009.

-jcr

Re:Here We Go ... (4, Insightful)

farrellj (563) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803112)

I think they should investigate the sending of IT jobs off-shore...It should be considered unethical if a company lays off an IT person, then ship their job to China, for example. Nothing against China, or any other country, but when you ship all of that expertise elsewhere, you handicap innovation in your country. That's stupid.

Re:Here We Go ... (4, Insightful)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803364)

It would also be helpful if they put some time into investigating permalancing, unpaid internships, and the unethical practice of performing credit checks on applicants.

Luckily, 16 states are looking into banning credit checks, and unpaid internships are being looked at as well.

Re:Here We Go ... (4, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803704)

Yes, when I saw this, I thought there are many more and worse problems than that in IT hiring.

There's the H1B stuff. Then there is stuff that I suspect is not confined to IT, though maybe it is more common there. For instance, putting out "resume bait" on job websites, practiced by the shadier sorts of head hunting firms. Jobs that don't actually exist. Another of this variety is the one they have no intention of filling, as they've made it impossible for anyone to qualify, or are demanding so much or offering so little pay that only a desperate sucker would bite. This is so they can cry that they can't find talented people, and hypocritically demand more H1Bs or other government intervention. Or there's the cooked job posting. There really is a job, but they've already chosen their hire, perhaps a friend or a relative, and are merely going through the motions to give it the appearance of complying with EEOC requirements. These have the mile long list of requirements, some very obscure and questionable, that just happen to exactly fit the resume of the person they're hiring. Then there's the real job that is already filled. Another common practice is pushing people to perform the work of more than one job, or of categorizing a job as a lower pay, less skilled position than the work they actually want done. And of course discrimination based on age, race, sex, marital status.

The noise level has been bad for years now. It would help everyone if all these sorts of deceit were tamped down, if HR was served notice that, no, such corrupt dealings are not acceptable, no matter how common and "standard" they may be. Well, this investigation is a start.

Re:Here We Go ... (1)

loudheart (1787330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803950)

I could not agree with you more. The problems you stated go back many years, perhaps 10 years or more.

Re:Here We Go ... (3, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803966)

Why are credit checks even needed in the first place?

Hell, of course you're going to have a few problems. That's why you're, I dunno, looking for work?

Re:Here We Go ... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803718)

"Basically, everyone is a victim of corporate crime before they finish booting up"
But these guys at Google, Intel, IBM, and Apple, they stole hundreds of millions of dollars...
...from innocent users all around the world.
..showed that white guys in suits getting together...
...that's not a developers conference, it's a crime scene.
All the other companies weren't there.
No one clicked the word 'agreement.'
The scripts for US corporate crime movies from the 1980's, 90s and beyond just write themselves.

Re:Here We Go ... (3, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803918)

A "gentlemen's agreement" between companies not to pilfer employees isn't a bad thing

It's still illegal.

Its bad enough with NDAs that keep you from working in your field of expertise ... even if you're totally honourable and have ZERO intent of using the insider knowledge you gained.

Re:Here We Go ... (3, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31804012)

Yeah it's not bad for the company, but it's bad for the people who would like their wages to be set by "the competitive market." This is harmful for anyone who hopes to be paid what they are worth. It harms not only employees at any company engaged in such practices, it harms everyone else who uses these large firms as a measurement by which wage expectations are set.

Verifying hiring practices... (2, Interesting)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802696)

How does one even verify whether or not a companies have agreed not to poach from one another in a way that cannot otherwise be explained as 'not the right fit'?

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (4, Interesting)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802848)

I think there is a reasonable question here, tough. For example:

I've always wondered why Microsoft hasn't hired a lot of Google's engineers away from Google. In the last 10 years, Microsoft has had huge amounts of cash in the bank. It would have been easy to simply offer each of the 100 top Google engineers literally double their salary each, just to come work for MS. Even if they didn't do anything specific (or did their own thing), as long as they didn't work for Google it would be a net gain. That would have been such an easy way to gut a competitor, much easier than trying to build a better search engine, or to buy Yahoo!.

Not every company could do that, but the top tech companies are swimming in cash, and targeted poaching is an option. But it doesn't seem to be used anywhere near its full (business) potential.

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803002)

It would have been easy to simply offer each of the 100 top Google engineers literally double their salary each, just to come work for MS.

Not everyone is for sale. And if you're making half a million a year, does that extra half million really make that much of a difference to you?

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (5, Informative)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803090)

Most of the people I know at Google don't work there for the money, and unless it was a job in something like MSR there's no way in hell you could turn their heads.

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (3, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31804002)

And that's the way a company SHOULD protect itself from headhunters.

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31804084)

Google engineers are mostly Linux engineers using Mac computers. Microsoft's dogfooding culture isn't really interested in those sorts of people. That's not to say they couldn't be a benefit to Microsoft, but it's a fundamentally different platform, and there's not a lot of incentive to learn it, especially when there are hundreds of universities churning out Microsoft-trained engineers.

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803222)

That depends if you have a girlfriend/wife or not.

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803832)

That depends on how your boom era "mortgage" is doing.
Been underwater, living on a fiat currency with federal and state taxes eating into your dream lifestyle.
You can turn off at MS from 9 till 5 and then be a real person again at home right?

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803276)

I've always wondered why Microsoft hasn't hired a lot of Google's engineers away from Google.

Because 1) they'd have to move from the center of the industry to a city that might as well be a company town, at least as far as development work is concerned. 2) They'd have to leave an organization with a healthy, young, and vibrant corporate culture and go to one that's rotting from the head, and 3) they'd have to forgo GOOG options for MSFT options, and 4) Google is a much better resume entry than Microsoft.

-jcr

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (2, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803774)

For the first one, Microsoft has a campus in Silicon Valley less than 15 minutes from Google's. So moving wouldn't really be an issue.

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (3, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803394)


In the last 10 years, Microsoft has had huge amounts of cash in the bank. It would have been easy to simply offer each of the 100 top Google engineers literally double their salary each, just to come work for MS.

Well, number one it's a huge obvious anti-trust issue. Microsoft is already a convicted monopolist. Google isn't without its own political influences. You do the math.

The other issue would simply be starting a "employee grab" war. You think Google couldn't try the same thing with Microsoft's employees? The only end result would be both companies would be paying more for employees, with a stalemate as far as talent goes. Neither company employs stupid management, and the moves are obvious enough to see.

Also you have to understand that money isn't everything, especially above a certain level. Work environment, influence, location, benefits, and rising stock prices all effect people's decisions on where to work.

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803878)

Welcome to the wonderful world of the carte.
Why is this new news now in the US now?
A childlike naivety that the "tech" sector would be any different from their parents and grandparents generation?

Re:Verifying hiring practices... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803882)

>

Also you have to understand that money isn't everything, especially above a certain level. Work environment, influence, location, benefits, and rising stock prices all effect people's decisions on where to work.

Two of those are directly related to money

This is nothing... (3, Insightful)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802732)

A crack team of shadowrunners can't fix.

Re:This is nothing... (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803352)

But that would force the justice department to actually do work. By releasing press reports that they are 'stepping up' an investigation, which everyone reads, they will get credit for doing something, even if they actually do nothing. If instead they sent their shadowrunners in, an excellent idea and should have been done before making announcements, they could have done a lot of work that no one ever heard about. That is why, whatever comes as a result of this investigation, you can expect that it won't be based in reality.

Why yes, I am cynical, but is there any reason to think the justice department will do better than the SEC, which investigated Madoff several times and still didn't find anything wrong, even though if they had done the simplest, most obvious checks, they would have found the problem?

Re:This is nothing... (1)

AndrewBC (1675992) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803600)

Why yes, I am cynical, but is there any reason to think the justice department will do better than the SEC, which investigated Madoff several times and still didn't find anything wrong, even though if they had done the simplest, most obvious checks, they would have found the problem?

Oh, and don't forget the really smart guy no one listened to [youtube.com] telling them exactly what was going on.

wait i'm confused (1)

Xenious (24845) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802758)

I thought this was going to be about them calling you redundant and then hiring someone in India or China to do your job.

Re:wait i'm confused (1, Flamebait)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802928)

If you can be replaced by an Indian code monkey, you don't deserve to have an IT job. Having worked with a number of them, I can say with all sincerity that the average Indian outsourcer has the programming capabilities of the College Junior who is signed up for IT because they want a big paycheck. No creativity... no inherent understanding.

And this is from a manager.. not someone who's job is threatened by this type of outsourcing.

Re:wait i'm confused (4, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803038)

If you can be replaced by an Indian code monkey, you don't deserve to have an IT job.

Anyone can be replaced by an Indian code monkey, it just takes management more interested in the upcoming quarterly than in quality.

Re:wait i'm confused (2, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803062)

Yeah, you do have a point. However, most of the instances I have seen of Indian outsourcing get reversed in really short order. It doesn't take long for shit code to get exposed.

Re:wait i'm confused (3, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803438)


It doesn't take long for shit code to get exposed.

If only. If you actually have sane people without any conflict of interest looking at the code, you're right. If you only expose the shittyness after the product is delivered and "working", that can take years and tens of millions of dollars. Especially if the project in managed by a consulting firm who's billed out at an hourly rate.

Re:wait i'm confused (2, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803706)

If your firm is not primarily a technology company, you'd be surprised at how little management cares about shit code - as long as the requirements are met and the expense is lower, they're happy.

Seems like a waste of an investigation (3, Insightful)

balsy2001 (941953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802834)

This would be very hard to prove. Even if it is real, how is this really different than other arbitrary hiring practices like "google only hires kids that have degrees from MIT and Stanford" or whatever they do. You could say that just about anything that limits who you will hire in any way unfairly limits someone's potential to get higher pay and benefits. This may be helpful for start-up companies because they know if they want to get a googler or IBMer they only have to beat out one company.

Re:Seems like a waste of an investigation (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802910)

They key difference is that while for one particular company to hire only people from certain schools may be stupid and discriminatory, it's not a conspiracy between multiple companies -- the latter being pretty much the definition of a trust, and what anti-trust laws are designed to prevent. The former harms only one company, and the employees of that company; the latter harms everyone in the industry.

Ha, I did this last week (4, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802840)

I stole one of our contractors employee's last week.

I think no one should have the right to tell you were you work, but, you shouldn't be allowed leave and take you current employers clients with you over to another firm. if you allow that kind of bullshit, employee's would hold employers to ransom.

things like having agreement not to hire engineers and coders so you don't have to compete for the talent pool is bullshit, i hope they get dragged over the coals.

Re:Ha, I did this last week (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31802904)

I stole one of our contractors employee's last week.

I think no one should have the right to tell you were you work, but, you shouldn't be allowed leave and take you current employers clients with you over to another firm. if you allow that kind of bullshit, employee's would hold employers to ransom.

And what's wrong with that? Employers hold employees for ransom by not letting them take clients with them.

The fact of the matter is, if the employee is able to take his book with him, then the employee should be able to. Because he is the one who is adding the value, not his employer. Rents go to the owner of the scarce resource, and in this scenario, the employee obviously owns the scarce resource (the clients).

Re:Ha, I did this last week (1)

longfalcon (202977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803348)

this.

mod parent up.

Re:Ha, I did this last week (3, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803316)

you shouldn't be allowed leave and take you current employers clients with you over to another firm.

If you can "take" your former employer's clients, it means that they were not really clients of the company but rather clients of a single person. That is a poor way to handle business relationships.

Re:Ha, I did this last week (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803726)

That's a very good point.

On one hand, an employee is supposed to be an extension to the corporation. On the other, sometimes employees are designated to be "the face" of the company. Usually this involves sales. But I know first hand in the IT industry, it's often an employee that has a few designated "regulars" that he/she will often work closely with. I can definitely understand that after a long business relationship; it's often that the client will have strong ties with that sole employee and not the corporation he/she works for.

Sounds like either management or sales needs to get more involved in being the "face", or pay technicians more money to keep them from jumping ship. A third option is to rotate techs among all clients, but that usually leads to inefficiencies and frustration for the client. Having to work with one network internally is difficult enough. Having a tech learn several hundred networks is a logistical nightmare.

FYI I work in the local outsourced IT industry. We're a small company that mainly deals with small businesses and start-ups.

Re:Ha, I did this last week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803880)

I stole one of our contractors employee's last week.

You stole his what?

Re:Ha, I did this last week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803976)

"you shouldn't be allowed leave and take you current employers clients with you over to another firm. if you allow that kind of bullshit, employee's would hold employers to ransom."

I think this is the bargaining method people us to get promoted to partner at consuling firms.

How about investigating H1B BS instead? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31802864)

I work for a really big (20+ Billion dollars in revenues) company's IT department.

Of late, they have become enamored with one of the big Indian outsourcing companies. I'm sure their folks are wonderful - indeed, of the ones I've worked with, it's about the same breakdown of wonderful/OK/awful as everyone else.

Based on job listings recently found on one of the internet job sites, they appear to have asked the outsourcer to find someone to work in my area as a technical manager of sorts. The job listing is full of internal lingo and acronyms - nobody from outside the company would know what it's talking about; indeed, some of the acronyms are commonly thought of as something else. (For example, suppose IBM stood for, internally, the "Internet Bandwidth Management" system but it says in the job listing "must be familiar with IBM computer technologies.")

I'm usually one to attribute stuff to stupidity before malice or deviousness.

But is the crap job listing a devious attempt to prove that nobody with US work rights already is suitable, thereby making it OK to bring in someone on a visa - and totally ignoring the fact that the visa guy won't be suitable either?

Or is it just stupidity? After all, HR folks mess up technical job listings all the time.

I don't know, but I do know that the H1B bull shit needs to be cleaned up. Given the employment turmoil of the last year, why would you possibly, honestly, need to bring someone in from overseas?

Re:How about investigating H1B BS instead? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803050)

Given the employment turmoil of the last year, why would you possibly, honestly, need to bring someone in from overseas?

Because I'm about to open a branch in New Delhi and I need someone with local knowledge to work a job that requires 50% of his time there and 50% of his time here. That's why.

As for any other reason, well, um, er, um, I think I'll shut up now.

You Suck (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803380)

So, in other words, you're a mercenary who would trade on your country for a $? Yes? Well then, you suck.

Re:How about investigating H1B BS instead? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803126)

But is the crap job listing a devious attempt to prove that nobody with US work rights already is suitable, thereby making it OK to bring in someone on a visa - and totally ignoring the fact that the visa guy won't be suitable either?

They just discreetly tell the guy (through the recruiting agent or whatever intermediary) what skills to write on his H1B application.

I don't know, but I do know that the H1B bull shit needs to be cleaned up. Given the employment turmoil of the last year, why would you possibly, honestly, need to bring someone in from overseas?

Turmoil - it means those in weak negotiating positions can be exploited more. It's just another downward pressure on labor costs to them.

Re:How about investigating H1B BS instead? (2, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803198)

You can't exploit the weak if you're exploiting someone else instead...

Re:How about investigating H1B BS instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803666)

I'm the AC above... and amazed that my AC post got raised to 4.

In my company we do usually interview the people the outsourcer wants to bring on site. It'll be fun to ask him/her to tell me all about IBM computer technologies, then.

Re:How about investigating H1B BS instead? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803468)


But is the crap job listing a devious attempt to prove that nobody with US work rights already is suitable, thereby making it OK to bring in someone on a visa - and totally ignoring the fact that the visa guy won't be suitable either?

Given your description? Yes. Absolutely. There's really no question about that. This kind of thing happens all the time. I also completely agree with you that it's both unethical, and very likely illegal.

Re:How about investigating H1B BS instead? (1)

broknstrngz (1616893) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803470)

Mind you, I have yet to see a clueful, intelligent and articulated HR person. This is something I'd very much like to be wrong on, but it's never happened to me or to anyone I know. It's like they only require typing skills for these positions. Most of them are there only to cross reference acronyms given by their customers to the ones in your CV. If you have at least 5 matches, they call you. If you don't, tough luck. I used to have a CV poor in proper nouns and acronyms, since I preferred giving details on what and how I did at my previous jobs. Since I've packed it with all sorts of things like "PostgreSQL", "BGP", "C++" I've started getting far more calls. It's really sad, the HR sieve really seems built upon randomness and utter incompetence.

Comment Summary (0, Troll)

Macrat (638047) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802868)

Google is for geeks, does open source and can do no wrong. This investigation is unfair.

Apple is for users, does open source and is evil. This investigation is great!

having a hard time getting excited about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31802878)

Not saying that something like this can't be happening, but the real competition for the best engineers would be from startups.

Also, I noticed that MS wasn't in the list. MS and Google famously pooch from each other all the time, for example the famous Ballmer chair throwing incident.

Re:having a hard time getting excited about this (3, Funny)

AcousticYorick (1787308) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803298)

MS and Google famously pooch from each other all the time....

Here, boy! Good programmer! There's a yummy treat!

Who does this apply to? (4, Interesting)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802926)

I'm guessing this this really only applies to the high-level, superstar tech talent, right? Especially with firms like Microsoft and IBM, what could they possibly be losing when IBM hires someone who's been working on the grammar checker for the Norwegian version of Word? Or the lower-level code monkey keeping an obscure feature of WebSphere MQ up to date?

These kinds of agreements would work in environments where talent tends to stay put. Unfortunately, the invisible hand seems to think that job stability is a stupid, backward 20th Century concept. After all, who doesn't like looking for a new job every 2 to 6 years?? In an environment like this, even the big guys are going to have trouble holding onto employees.

I think a much better investigation would deal with the well-publicized claims of IBM laying off senior US techs, replacing them with Indians or Brazillians, and forcing the laid off person to train the n00b to get their severance package. I'd also like to see the H-1B program users under some scrutiny for things like not paying prevailing wages, or employers intentionally not pursuing the hiring of US workers so they can get their work cheaper.

All of these things would be less of an issue with some kind of professional standards body in the IT realm. Unfortunately, too many people I know think this is evil and doesn't allow the full brilliance of their talent to shine. I don't think that's valid...lawyers sure like the Bar Association and doctors like the AMA. These organizations give them the power to influence laws and maintain educational standards...exactly what we need.

HB-1 "solution" (2, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803102)

A partial solution to the problem of foreign laborers is to tax it. A 20% payroll tax on people with employment-based visas in addition to current requirements such as prevailing wages would reduce the incentive to use guest labor. If you applied this to illegal aliens as well, then you have yet another stick to go after people who hire illegal alien labor. The downside risk is that even more jobs will go overseas, where companies are subject to weaker safety, pollution, and other good-for-mankind laws and consequently much lower costs of doing business.

Personally, I don't mind competing with foreign workers who work under American work rules - if they are willing to come to this country and flood the market and drive me out of a job or drive my paycheck down, it's just one more incentive for me to keep my skills sharp. However, I realize most Americans are more "America for Americans" than that.

Re:HB-1 "solution" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803604)

No, it would only reduce the amount of money those people would be willing to pay in salaries. Trust me when I say that it would be really easy for them to fire people.

Re:Who does this apply to? (4, Interesting)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803140)

I think a much better investigation would deal with the well-publicized claims of IBM laying off senior US techs, replacing them with Indians or Brazillians, and forcing the laid off person to train the n00b to get their severance package. I'd also like to see the H-1B program users under some scrutiny for things like not paying prevailing wages, or employers intentionally not pursuing the hiring of US workers so they can get their work cheaper.

Finally I read an idea that makes a lot of sense. When there is plenty of talent in the states, why are companies offshoring jobs or importing labor via the H-1B programs. Companies get tax breaks for this kind of non-sense. Companies actually get tax breaks for eliminating American jobs! If that isn't an example of just how bad things have gotten in America, I don't know what is. And supposedly the economy is recovering - I just don't see how. It is time for a change and more laws to protect the American Worker. I might even go so far as to advocate that IT needs to unionize!

Re:Who does this apply to? (2, Interesting)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803586)


I might even go so far as to advocate that IT needs to unionize!

It'll never happen. Why? No, not because IT has some special political position. No, not because IT is someone some special talent pool that's immune to corporate scum-baggery. It's because IT is by and large a large amount of small shops who's power would be very weak. The UAW is a great and powerful union because there's only 3 major U.S. based automakers. Teachers unions are powerful because school districts are large. But IT? So spread out and diverse it'd be impossible to control.

The option most used for labor that's felt pressured from unskilled workers competing is required certification. Examples would include Doctors, CPAs, electricians, plumbers, etc. Plumbers and electricians have unions, but they still largely exist because of the laws for certifications. I wouldn't rule this out.. but the IT world is so incredibly diverse and changing, how would you have any kind of certification for it (even if you made 10 different certs for instance).

Re:Who does this apply to? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803898)

but the IT world is so incredibly diverse and changing, how would you have any kind of certification for it

That's all you had to say, really. When you work in IT, you're on the frontier paving the way for new models for management of information through technology. It's ever changing to reflect the culture of how business is conducted around the world. By that standard (or lack there of), we are COWBOYS! And just like the Cowboy that enjoys a wide range of freedom on the range, we also have to accept the fact we must endure the cold and raining days too...without shelter.

Stability (by definition) is the antithesis to the IT industry. If it's stability you're looking for, become a medical doctor, or an engineer. Keep in mind that stability does not guarantee employment, but rather a clear vision of an occupation now and into the future.

Re:Who does this apply to? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31804036)


Stability (by definition) is the antithesis to the IT industry.

Baloney. Eventually the Moore's law gravy train that's been responsible for a lot of the continued development and the rapid change will be over. When that will happen I don't know, but it will. Much of the innovations of new languages has been at least in part been a result of Moore's law. Sure, the change and innovation will likely never stop, but it will slow. Even farming has innovation and change in it and it's one of the oldest activities we have.

Think I'm wrong? Imagine what the world would be like if Moore's law stopped 20 years ago with the transistor count of the 486. That will herald a different era, likely geared towards doing more with the same amount of stuff.

Re:Who does this apply to? (1, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803192)

Unfortunately, the invisible hand seems to think that job stability is a stupid, backward 20th Century concept. After all, who doesn't like looking for a new job every 2 to 6 years?? In an environment like this, even the big guys are going to have trouble holding onto employees.

Job stability doesn't work when the -industry- is changing. Advancements in hardware allow for new software concepts. 15 years ago if someone came up with the idea for Google Maps it would be shot down for a number of reasons. Number one because of the lack of high-resolution satellites and number two because of the fact the average person could never download such a large file over the (then) current technology. Today, Google Maps is a large part of Google and similar things are used on other sites.

Other industries are rather stagnant without any huge innovations. For example, while farming has changed a lot, the basic principles are the same, plant, irrigate, fertilize, and harvest, the same that farming has had for several hundred years. On the other hand, the best IT skills from a few years ago don't transfer, especially when it comes to practical skills. Other than legacy systems, no one has a need for DOS anymore, someone who spent their entire lives making DOS programs and working with DOS must adapt or die, something that isn't seen in many other industries.

A company can not be stable when an industry is unstable, employment can not be stable when companies are unstable. And honestly, the "stable" companies are the ones that have changed the most. Look at Apple, a few years ago they were producing no phones and no iPods. Then suddenly they are producing music players and now cell phones! The industry is changing.

Re:Who does this apply to? (3, Insightful)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803282)

You are assuming that people can't keep up with change. Sounds like you've never worked with top notch people. A truly talented IT guy can keep up with innovations well into his 70s - if he pushes himself (or herself).

Re:Who does this apply to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803612)

You are assuming that people can't keep up with change. Sounds like you've never worked with top notch people. A truly talented IT guy can keep up with innovations well into his 70s - if he pushes himself (or herself).

I'd agree, except it seems a lot of companies want people who will do the job of 3-4 people, and there comes a point where you can't stay on top of things and do 4x the workload. I think they use it as a way to boost their numbers and exclude people when they no longer perform beyond their unreasonable standards.

Re:Who does this apply to? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803762)

Instabilities in farming was one of the major economic stories at the start of the last century. Many people had to leave the field and find different jobs as tractors replaced farm hands and horses. Changing industry is not new.

Not actively recruiting, or actively excluding? (4, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31802972)

There is a difference.

Legal: "We won't have our recruiters stake out the Starbucks in Redmond."

Grey area, probably what the Feds are looking into: "We'll draw up a short list of industry experts and constantly headhunt them, but once we find out they work for Microsoft we'll stop actively pursuing them. If they contact us, fine."

Illegal: "If we find out you are a Microsoft employee we will not hire you until you quit."

Re:Not actively recruiting, or actively excluding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803622)

I have been subject to what you list as 'illegal'.

I was told by a hiring company's HR person that they had a "gentleman's agreement" with my current employer and that they could not communicate with me any more.

What? (1, Troll)

Montezumaa (1674080) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803032)

It is not the right of the Federal Government to tell a corporation who they can and cannot hire, within a certain extent(illegal aliens and such would be an obvious exemption). If you have five people applying for a position and all five people can legally work in the United States, then that is where the power of any government in the United States stops. This sounds like a load of bullshit and a waste of taxpayer money.

If a company is recruiting people from other companies, then I see no problem with this. This is how the process works. If a company has evidence that another company is trying to steal "trade secrets", then they need to report that. Otherwise, then government needs to keep its fucking nose out of this.

Re:What? (1)

cob666 (656740) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803476)

I'm not sure you understood the article or what the investigation is for. The justice department is investigation whether or not top IT companies have agreements to NOT hire each others employees.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803500)

What planet do you come from? Its has been illegal in the US to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of age, sex, religion or national origin for over a generation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This will be easier for you to accept if you stop thinking of the pursuit of wealth as the goal of all human life but something more like a football game where the government is the referee.
 

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803520)

If a company is recruiting people from other companies, then I see no problem with this. This is how the process works.

Perhaps you have mis-read the article...

The practice that is being questioned by the Justice Dept is the forming of agreements between companies not to recruit from each other.

This creates an artificial barrier to the employee in the ability to find a more beneficial position in another company, and effectively creates wage and benefit ceilings for the positions.

This is the process, as you describe it, being circumvented through anti-trust-like behavior on the part of these companies.

I am happy to see DOJ sniffing at this...

Re:What? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31804034)

Price fixing is still price fixing.

The good in this case, is labor.

It doesn't matter which side of the cash register you are on, if you agree with others to fix prices at which you will buy something, you are violating anti-trust law.

Non-compete clauses in employment contracts (3, Interesting)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803082)

That would seem to be the biggest problem for would be switchers. Essentially, their legalese translates into:
  "You must be subjected to a complete mind-wipe before going to work at one of our potential competitors, because if you use any of the specific expertise you developed while working here, you're screwed."

Re:Non-compete clauses in employment contracts (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803130)

"You must be subjected to a complete mind-wipe before going to work at one of our potential competitors, because if you use any of the specific expertise you developed while working here, you're screwed."

Language to that effect would most likely be unenforceable. Companies can't use employment contracts to prevent people from using general industry skills to earn a living, unless perhaps they are willing to take on the person's salary (which happens only for a rare, very senior person pulling in substantial six figures).

The answer: no. (4, Funny)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803194)

I know plenty of people who've moved between Google and Apple. There's certainly no reluctance on the part of either company to hire staff away from the other.

-jcr

Good start (1)

happyhamster (134378) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803248)

It's a good start. They should also urgently look into widespread H1B fraud and blatant age discrimination in computer industry to name a few.

Look at DoJ's hiring practices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803370)

I worry more about the droids the DOJ hired during the Bush administration for political purposes. I don't know how to totally fix this hiring cartel when the big companies threaten each other with lawsuits for hiring away their workers.

I doubt it's an agreement (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803376)

More likely it's a consequence of the non-competes most large companies require employees to sign as a condition of employment, and the risk of getting entangled in litigation if a company hires someone who was subject to such a non-compete. Even if the company can't be liable, it costs money to deal with the matter and extract the company from the litigation. And the employees themselves are probably also touchy about the matter, they can't get themselves out of the mess if a previous employer decides to sue them for violating a non-compete. All they can do is fight it out and hope they win, and even if they win they probably can't recover the cost of winning.

If the DoJ thinks the situation is a problem, they need to address non-competes.

Re:I doubt it's an agreement (1)

cob666 (656740) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803522)

In quite a few states, blanket non competes are not enforceable.

Re:I doubt it's an agreement (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803812)

Yes, they are. But that doesn't prevent a previous employer from threatening or actually bringing a suit to enforce them. It just means that, after spending a year or two and 20-30 thousand dollars of your own money, you'll have a piece of paper from the court ruling in your favor. And that is the problem employers have with recruiting people who might be subject to a non-compete and worked for a company that might try to enforce it.

At the same time, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803456)

check on H1B visa and the misuse of it by the tech companies. One thing that should be done by the feds is that ALL federal contracts should be checking into the companies use of nations that manipulate their money or have trade barriers up. If they manipulate their money (china and india come to mind), then federal contracts should be forbidden to those goods and services coming from the companies that use these in any way for the contract.

What about the fake job ads scam ... (5)

Jerry (6400) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803594)

which is a ploy to avoid hiring American workers in favor of H1B & green card temp workers? It's only "old news" if you have already been replaced by an H-1B.

I read one ad for Qt4 programmers which required 5 years experience, but tool had only been released in the prior year!

The most infamous quote by immigration lawyer Larry Lebowitz during the Cohen & Grigsby seminar on employment visas, May 15th, 2007 in Pittsburgh. Lebowitz coached immigration attorneys and employers how to avoid hiring US workers in order to hire foreign workers on green cards:

"Our goal [youtube.com] is clearly NOT TO FIND a qualified and interested US worker."

http://www.programmersguild.org/rir/ [programmersguild.org]

Or, HERE [google.com]

How U.S. Employers Can Avoid The H1B Cap

            Under the present scenario, U.S. employers can only file H1B petitions for new bachelor-level or master-level H1B workers on one day each year, or on April 1 of each year.

            However, there are some other options available to U.S. employers.

Alternatives To The H1B Visa

                    o Hire U.S. workers.
                    o Hire foreign nationals who already have an H1B visa under the H1B "portability" rules.
                    o Hire recently graduated students on the USCIS' extended "optional practical training" (OPT) program for certain foreign graduates of U.S. universities.
                    o Hire H1B1 workers from Chile or Singapore.
                    o Hire E-3 workers from Australia.
                    o Hire TN workers from Canada or Mexico.
                    o Hire E-2 foreign nationals who own and operate their own companies within the United States.
                    o For multinational companies, transfer employees from overseas to the United States under the L-1 visa category.
                    o Utilize the U.S. State Department's J-1 visa program to hire foreign "trainees" and "interns".
                    o Utilize the H2B "temporary worker" nonimmigrant visa category.

            A TN visa process is an "objective" process in which the USCIS officer determines whether an applicant's credentials meet those listed in NAFTA.

            There is no requirement that a sponsoring employer pay at least the prevailing wage (or actual wage, if higher) for the position being sponsored for the geographic location where the foreign national will work.

A year ago it was reported [computerworld.com] that H-1B workers OUTNUMBERED unemployed techies!

H1B and other quotas are set in the Free Trade Agreements with the various countries. Despite the fact that these job ad scams were revealed three years ago and discussed on various major media outlets little is being done about them, beyond the dog and pony show trials. Apparently most H1B and other quotas are part of the Free Trade Agreements, which need to be renegotiated or canceled. American corporations are getting very good about Socializing their losses and Capitalizing their profits. Neither political party is making a serious attempt to stem American job losses to foreign workers imported SPECIFICALLY to be cheap replacements, but the politicians are reaping huge campaign donations and publish PR memos to the folks back home making a lot of bluff and bluster.

Google and Apple poach each other all the time (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803708)

This is bullshit invented by journalists. I bet you can probably trace a single journalist who originated this. I mean:

  • I was hired by Apple while working at Google.
  • Apple posts plenty of job listings to ex-Google mailing lists and forums.
  • Google HR calls incrementing numbers on the Apple campus (evil).
  • I hear from ex-colleagues at Google that Apple is calling up their campus incrementally too.

I don't know if there's been an agreement in the past, but there definitely isn't one right now.

yuo fail IT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31803794)

departures of corpse turned over contin0es in a

Recruiting != hiring (2, Insightful)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803912)

You're free to apply for any job at any company you like; what this is about are the players in the game agreeing not to actively seek out their competition's talent. If you want to jump from Apple to Google, or Google to Microsoft, you're free (and probably welcome) to do so. But don't expect Google to actively court you while you work at Apple...

hiring practices (1)

chentiangemalc (1710624) | more than 4 years ago | (#31803968)

If this investigation leads to making it easter for employees to switch companies for higher benefits/pay etc it may eventually backfire on employees. Here in Australia and I suspect in US as well there is already a tedency for many IT positions reaching pay levels that are really not paying business the returns, and some companies solution to ever increasing salary demands has been redundancies and in some cases offshore the majority of work to India or China.

And let's stop the shortage myth discussion (2, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | more than 4 years ago | (#31804026)

Before it starts. Slashdot article:
http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/10/1454250 [slashdot.org]

And i have posted a number of times about it on this and other forums. I'm getting tired of posting it.
RAND institute, Stanford, Duke, and one other reputable institution I can't remeber have all posted studies on this. There is *no* shortage in SMET fields.

There is no excuse for the companies, actions.

Another thing to investigate is non-competes (2, Insightful)

melted (227442) | more than 4 years ago | (#31804062)

Another thing to investigate is non-competes, and non-solicits. They're illegal in CA, but perfectly legal in most other states. Basically it is illegal for you to use your knowledge in the area where you have the most expertise at the moment. WTF?

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