- A jury has rejected U.S. Department of Justice claims, finding four home healthcare company managers and owners not guilty of fixing wages and suppressing job mobility for their workers March 22.
- DOJ in January 2022 announced a federal grand jury had returned an indictment charging the individuals with conspiring to eliminate competition for home healthcare workers early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The indictment alleged the individuals colluded to deprive workers of opportunities to earn better wages, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Federal law prohibits wage fixing and no-poach agreements, and DOJ has in recent years stepped up both outreach to HR professionals regarding their responsibilities and enforcement of these provisions.
Notably, the law allows for criminal penalties, including imprisonment. The agency’s enforcement efforts, however, have had mixed results.
DOJ obtained its first criminal conviction late last year, according to Bloomberg Law, in which a company entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to pay $134,000; an individual involved was slated for trial but the charges will be dismissed upon his successful completion of a diversion program requiring community service, according to court documents.
Wednesday’s verdict, however, reinforces the difficulty DOJ has had at jury trials on the issue in recent years. Among other losses, a jury acquitted DaVita and its former CEO of no-poach charges in April 2022, according to Reuters.
Employment law attorneys have nonetheless recommended HR pros remember they are on the front lines of antitrust compliance. DOJ has noted that “red flags” include agreements with other companies about pay and benefits and agreements with other companies to refuse to solicit or hire each other’s workers.