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DOJ Gears Up For First-Ever Criminal Labor Antitrust Trials

 |  April 4, 2022

The Department of Justice’s first-ever criminal trials over companies’ alleged violations of labor-related antitrust laws are set to kick off soon, reported Bloomberg.

The pair of trials, which start Monday, will try federal antitrust regulators’ previously untested guidance that could prove a watershed moment for their prosecution of wage-fixing and no-poach agreements.

In its first criminal indictment for wage-fixing violations, the DOJ’s 2020 complaint in USA v. Jindal, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, alleged that the owner of a therapy staffing company conspired with competitors to lower pay and recruit others to the scheme.

Neeraj Jindal, owner of Fit for Life Therapy, has argued that the DOJ failed to state a per se offense, which are offenses that are inherently anticompetitive conduct that need no further evidence.

The Justice Department will target Monday no-poach deals in USA v. DaVita in the US District Court for the District of Colorado. In the complaint, the DOJ alleged that DaVita Inc., a kidney dialysis service provider, formed no-poach contracts with competitors to refrain from hiring each other’s workers.

A conviction in either trial could strengthen the government’s hand on similar cases in the future. The trials will set the tenor for the DOJ’s future prosecutions over labor antitrust, particularly the four other indictments the department issued that have yet to go to trial, said Eleanor Tyler, a Bloomberg Law legal analyst.

“DaVita in particular will be hard-fought,” Tyler said. “There’s a lot of talent lined up, and it’s a big company. The outcome will set the stage for what the government does going forward. If this fails spectacularly, this might be all we hear about no-poach, at least in the criminal context.”

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