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US Justice Dept. Investigates IT Hiring Practices 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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US Justice Dept. Investigates IT Hiring Practices

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  • Sexism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2010 @06:51PM (#31802648)
    As a 49 yo grandmother, C programmer and techie, I'd say sexism is a major problem in IT hiring. Its offensive.
  • Re:Here We Go ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2010 @06:57PM (#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.

  • This is nothing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Securityemo ( 1407943 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:00PM (#31802732) Journal
    A crack team of shadowrunners can't fix.
  • by balsy2001 ( 941953 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:11PM (#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.
  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:12PM (#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.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:18PM (#31802910) Homepage Journal

    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.

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

    by mkiwi ( 585287 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:24PM (#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.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:24PM (#31802972) Homepage Journal

    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."

  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:29PM (#31803038) Journal

    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.

  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:32PM (#31803062) Journal

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

    by farrellj ( 563 ) * on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:38PM (#31803112) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:40PM (#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:Here We Go ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:51PM (#31803214) Journal

    Jon Rubenstein, was hired away from Apple

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


  • by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @08:02PM (#31803276) Journal

    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.


  • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @08:02PM (#31803282) Journal
    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).
  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @08:08PM (#31803316) Journal

    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.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @08:13PM (#31803352) Journal
    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:Here We Go ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beakerMeep ( 716990 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @08:14PM (#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 ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:06PM (#31803704) Journal

    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.

  • 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.
  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:40PM (#31803912) Journal
    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...
  • Re:Here We Go ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:41PM (#31803918) Journal

    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 ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:49PM (#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?

  • by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:53PM (#31804002)

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

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:57PM (#31804026) Journal

    Before it starts. Slashdot article: []

    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.

  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @10:04PM (#31804062) Homepage

    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?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2010 @10:28PM (#31804218)

    Agree 100% there. Nobody should be able to tell you that you can't use your skill set to make a living. That's one of the perks of living in a right to work state.

    That said, my wife owns a small therapy business that we took out loans for every penny we're worth to finance, advertise, brand, and build from the ground up. For 2 of 3 years she managed to take minimum wage while making sure that everybody else was paid competitively and with incentives.

    After hiring a director for a second office and continually re-investing in the company, 2 years later the director left, took 2 of the 3 therapists and 60% of the patients in that office, open an office 2 blocks away. She basically took our investment, used us to build up a caseload and a revenue stream, and then decided to call it "her" business. That kind've impact, when you also take into effect long term lease agreements on office space that we had to commit to, nearly bankrupted us, forced us to shut down the business and cost 10 other people their jobs. And if you're wondering, the therapist's contracts were mysteriously destroyed before all of this took place.

    Hiring in that business is seasonal and through a random stroke of luck we were able to rearrange personnel and my wife has taken on a caseload that she doesn't have time to take on just so that she can get to the summer when therapists usually become available, without having to fire anybody.

    People are greedy and in a service based business where the employees are providing a service to your clients/patients every day employees can get a seriously inflated sense of self-worth without a hint of what has been done just to make their position even exist. Holding companies for hostage would be an understatement because the impact of 1 or 2 people leaving can hurt a lot more than just your employeer, it can hurt your previous fellow employees.

    I'm a web developer and I had a serious ego in my last job. Then I tried to start my own thing (still working on it) and I now have a heaping load of appreciation for the opportunity that my previous employer gave me.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2010 @10:40PM (#31804290)

    Put it in economic terms. Appeals to intelligence or fairness don't work in this "me, me, me" society. For example, US companies enjoy the infrastructure, the laws and legal system, (all too often) the direct protection of the US military for their overseas assets, and the benefit of existing in a society where you generally don't have a lot of the issues prevalent in some other parts of the world. Those things cost money--your tax money specifically. If a company is going to take advantage of the benefits of our society, then we the people have every right to force them to operate for the benefit of our society. That includes employing people who live and work here unless there's a damned good reason otherwise. To allow your society to operate otherwise is to be taken advantage of economically, as you are paying for something for which you get no benefit. Appeals to reason and fairness are not going to work here--legal force is necessary. It is the one thing these predatory corporations fear and the one thing that must be used.

  • And by Sexism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Das Auge ( 597142 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @11:27PM (#31804612)
    You mean that not everyone was 100% nice to you all the time. Which, or course, is how male techs treat each other.

    Yes, there's sexism, but more often than not it's simply that not everyone is nice.
  • Re:Good start (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @12:22AM (#31804940) Homepage Journal

    Not to mention the common practice of calling a position "contract to hire", when they have absolutely no intention of hiring the person, and will replace the person with another CTH once the contract is up. (In some states, they can even "replace" the person with the same person through another agency.)

    That, and H1B fraud, I believe to be the two most common exploitation techniques right now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @12:41AM (#31805040)

    Maybe if the Justice Department really cared about the American IT workers, they would do more to stop the rampant corruption and indentured servitude in the outsourced employee business. Instead, they want to go after non-competes, as if they companies won't figure out some other way to prevent mobility of workers. If they think that by investigating a few cases where people are claiming they are not getting job offers from competitors, they are going to come up empty.

    First of all, there are plenty of moves of people between companies at the highest levels. How many people have gone from Microsoft to Google over the last few years. I'm sure there are some people who interviewed, and didn't get jobs -- was that because they were prevented, or because they weren't good enough?

    Further -- I'm sure that there are people that apply for positions at a competitor, and someone -- either at the board level or some other level -- gets asked "Did you know so-and-so? Were they any good?" First, if the respondent doesn't want to lose the person -- they answer that maybe the person wasn't really that good. Or if they do want to lose them, they give glowing recommendations.

    We can always count on federal investigators to make the worst choices when it comes to investigating something.

  • by Tomy ( 34647 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:57AM (#31805682)

    Trust me, having Google or Amazon on the resume means a lot more the having Microsoft on the resume.

    The former two guarantee you know something about scaling (insane scaling), the later only guarantees you know how to develop for Windows.

    The former two haven't drowned themselves in bureaucracy. The later has.

    The former two still have managers with technical chops. The later has MBA's for managers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:08AM (#31805728)
    This is just a way for those companies to keep the bright minds (and the information retained there) for 'reasonable' costs. Just imagine what you could get paid should you job hop to every better deal, each year. You're worth it, but they just won't hire you for that pay. imho this is a disgusting technique to keep wages down, also seen in The Netherlands. There is almost no recruiting among tech companies here, its even hard to get a job at a 'partner of your current employer'.
  • Re:Here We Go ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:54AM (#31806050) Journal

    H1-B is broken by design (i.e. the law that establishes rules for them). You have a skilled worker visa that practically invites companies to screw over foreign workers - if they're fired, laid off, or if they leave of their own desire, they have to start packing literally next minute - no opportunity given to look for a new job in U.S. - thus allowing them to exercise insane pressure on them, in particular with respect to working conditions, hours and pay. And you expect companies not to abuse it as much as they can?

    You can't fix this by merely going after the companies. You can reduce the amount of abuse that way somewhat, but you cannot get rid of it. The only way to do the latter is to fix the system on legal level. You have to make sure that foreign workers on worker visas have the same leverage vis-a-vis employers on the job market as any member of the local workforce - so that companies have to truly compete for employees, no matter where they come from.

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

    by Eli Gottlieb ( 917758 ) <> on Sunday April 11, 2010 @10:48AM (#31807848) Homepage Journal

    That's not remotely a free market; it's arbitrage of labor.

  • by mrlibertarian ( 1150979 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @12:40PM (#31808758)
    She basically took our investment, used us to build up a caseload and a revenue stream, and then decided to call it "her" business.

    Everyone uses each other in capitalism. You used her to run a second office. She used you to build up a list of contacts. The relationship was a mutually beneficial one.

    People can not be owned, and therefore can't be stolen. Thus, she did not "steal" your therapists or your patients. They just chose her over you. That's competition. The fact that she won the competition means that her sense of self-worth was not "inflated"; rather, her sense of self-worth was accurate and your sense of her worth was deflated.

    ...a small therapy business that we took out loans for every penny we're worth to finance, advertise, brand, and build from the ground up.

    It seems that director found a cheaper way to advertise: Build up your reputation and business relationships by working for an established business.

    By the way, when you hired her, you could have brought her on as a partner and offered her some share of profits and costs, to make it less likely that she would become a competitor. But you didn't do that. Now, maybe there are some more facts about this situation that I don't know, but based on what you have told us, it sounds like she didn't do anything wrong.
  • by ErikZ ( 55491 ) * on Sunday April 11, 2010 @09:01PM (#31812790)

    2 out of the 3 therapists took off with the new Director without even *talking* to you?

    Sounds like you had a bad relationship with them.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.