Poaching Workers? Employees Are Now Owned Animals?

Apple is accused of poaching engineers from a bankrupt company. Seriously?


The Reuters headline pretends it makes perfect sense: “Apple poaching auto engineers to build battery division: lawsuit.”

At first I thought (hoped) the headline was taking the perspective of an idiotic lawsuit, but look how often the word is repeated early in the story:

Electric-car battery maker A123 Systems has sued Apple Inc for poaching top engineers to build a large-scale battery division, according to a court filing that offered further evidence that the iPhone maker may be developing a car.

Apple has been poaching engineers with deep expertise in car systems, including from Tesla Inc, and talking with industry experts and automakers with the ultimate aim of learning how to make its own electric car, an auto industry source said last week.

Around June 2014, Apple began aggressively poaching A123 engineers tasked with leading some of the company’s most critical projects, the lawsuit said.

OK, poaching is what happens when you hunt game that you aren’t supposed to touch. Either it is not the right season, or the animals are endangered, or the animals are owned.

Does A123 Systems forever own its engineers? Why is Reuters acting like this makes any sense.

Apparently, A123 Systems claims that the employees violated contractual agreements in working for Apple.

This might be true, but just how broad can such contracts be? The only accusation is that these engineers changed jobs, probably because Apple paid them more money. Can an employer get you to agree to become a slave for life? No? Then what could possibly be the legal problem with an engineer quitting one job and taking a better job in his field. If A123 thinks these engineers are so valuable, maybe they should pay them more. If they can’t offer them what they are worth on the open market, maybe they need to admit that Apple can make better use of them.

“Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123,” the lawsuit read. 

That’s an accusation? If A123 believes it should get some kind of monopoly on large-scale batteries, no wonder it couldn’t make it in the business world. As it turns out, A123 wasn’t begun through free enterprise. This is another Obama boondoggle:

A123 Systems is a pioneering industrial lithium-ion battery maker, which was backed by a $249 million U.S. government grant. It filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and has been selling off assets.

“What a surprise!” exclaims no one reading this post! A company started by the government on the theory that the state is supposed to stimulate new business according to political favoritism ends up bankrupt. Duh. Solyndra anyone?

And naturally, a company started that way ends up acting like an entitled spoiled brat. Engineers being hired by another company counts as “poaching.” They complain before the court: “No fair! Apple is competing with us.”

It is sickening how this is all reported as if the moral claims made by the company are perfectly reasonable.

Poaching doesn’t apply to hiring humans.

(For a completely different set of attitudes in business, see this story).