Category: Wrongful Termination

Employer-employee relationships are presumed to be “at-will” under California law. This means that your boss can fire you for any reason—or even no reason—and you have no legal recourse. However, if you have a written, oral, or implied contract that guarantees your job security, you may have a claim for wrongful termination if your employer breaches the agreement. You may even have a case against a third party that intentionally interferes with your employment contract.

Executive Claims He Was Fired for Failing to Yield to “Anticompetitive” Demands

Apple, Inc., is one of the world’s most prominent companies and among the largest employers in Santa Clara County. Apple also has an unfortunate history of trampling on employee rights. In 2014, Apple and several other technology firms paid over $300 million to settle claims brought by more than 64,000 workers that they “conspired to suppress salaries by not recruiting one another’s workers.” According to internal documents disclosed during the case, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly told a competitor, “If you hire a single one of these people that means war,’’ referring to Apple employees. Jobs also reportedly pressured competitors to fire employees who violated his “do not call policy.” In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice declared Apple’s practices a violation of federal antitrust law, leading to a civil consent order against the company.

More recently, Apple has once again been accused of coercing another company into firing an employee as part of an anticompetitive business scheme. In this case, the plaintiff is a former aluminum company executive. Apple uses aluminum alloys to produce its signature iPhone products. In 2011, the plaintiff said he was named lead negotiator to conclude a deal with Apple for a new iPhone body.

Apple purportedly asked the plaintiff to sign a “development agreement” that would forbid his employer from providing its alloys to any other consumer electronics manufacturer for a period of five years—even if Apple ultimately chose not to purchase any of the alloy itself. The plaintiff said Apple already had similar agreements with other aluminum manufacturers, which he alleged was part of an “anticompetitive scheme” that not only violated federal antitrust law, but also represented an attempt to “defraud” his employer of its trade secrets. Accordingly, the plaintiff refused to sign the development agreement.

Shortly thereafter, the employer fired the plaintiff, allegedly after Apple executives “appealed to the executive management of the private equity firm” that owned the company. The plaintiff said he has been effectively blackballed from the aluminum industry and unable to find similar work as a result of Apple’s illegal interference with his prior employment contract.

The plaintiff’s case remains pending before the California courts. On July 1, the California Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled the case could proceed after a lower court erroneously granted Apple’s motion to dismiss. Without ruling on the merits of the plaintiff’s allegations, the appeals court said he alleged “sufficient facts which, deemed to be true, support[] a business interference claim.” If the plaintiff can ultimately prove “that Apple intentionally interfered with his employment relationship,” he may be entitled to damages.

Have You Been Wrongfully Terminated?

If you are a whistleblower who lost your job due to reporting illegal activity or are otherwise a victim of wrongful termination, it is important to stand up for your rights. An experienced San Jose wrongful termination attorney can review your case and help you decide whether to bring a lawsuit against a former employer. Contact the Briski Law Firm if you need to speak with an attorney right away.