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Court Rejects Netflix’s Challenge to Poaching Injunction

In the latest blow against Netflix’s aggressive recruiting practices, a California appellate court has affirmed a trial court’s injunction against Netflix and in favor of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (“Fox”), thus permanently barring the streaming giant from poaching Fox executives by inducing them to breach their fixed-term employment contracts.

Netflix challenged the injunction, which was issued two years ago under California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), on two grounds. Netflix argued that there are triable issues of fact as to whether: (1) Fox had suffered damages; and (2) Fox’s employment contracts were void as against public policy. The Court of Appeal rejected both arguments, finding that the extent of damages to Fox was not relevant to its UCL claim. The Court also rejected Netflix’s public policy arguments, noting that there is well-settled law that fixed-term contracts are beneficial to both employers and employees and that, in any event, the challenged contractual provisions can be severed, even if they are in any sense unenforceable or unlawful.

The Court of Appeal also rejected Netflix’s challenges to the trial court’s permanent injunction, which barred Netflix from soliciting employees who are subject to fixed-term employment contracts with Fox or inducing such employees to breach their fixed-term employment contracts. Specifically, the Court rejected the argument that the injunction was vague or overbroad because Netflix had failed to explain the basis for the objection at the summary judgment hearing, despite having been given ample opportunity to do so. The Court also rejected Netflix’s argument that the injunction resulted in specific performance of personal services contracts, pointing out that the injunction only applied to Netflix’s tortious conduct—and did not bind any current or former Fox executives.

This decision follows a similar ruling late last year, when a trial court ruled in favor of our client Viacom in its anti-poaching lawsuit against Netflix.

A holding the other way for Netflix could have upended the way California employers solicit and retain employees, especially in the entertainment industry, where fixed-term employment agreements are relatively commonplace. Although the recent Court of Appeal decision is unpublished, it presumably sends a strong message to those who would poach the employees of a competitor who are subject to fixed-term employment agreements.

© 2022 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 355
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About this Author

Anthony J Oncidi, Employment Attorney, Proskauer Rose Law Firm
Partner

Anthony J. Oncidi heads the Labor & Employment Law Group in the Los Angeles office. Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection....

310-284-5690
Phillipe Lebel labor & Employment Attorney Los Angeles Proskauer Law Firm
Associate

Philippe (Phil) A. Lebel represents employers in all aspects of employment litigation, including wage and hour, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, whistleblower, trade secrets, and breach of contract litigation, in both the single-plaintiff and class-action context, at both the trial and appellate level, and before administrative agencies. Phil also represents employers in connection with labor law matters, such as labor arbitrations and proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board. Additionally, Phil counsels clients to ensure compliance with federal...

+1.310.284.4558
Law Clerk

Dixie Morrison is a law clerk in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group.

310-557-5616
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