The five former employees of Adobe, Intuit, and Intel had sought the ability to sue those three companies, plus Apple, Google, Pixar and Lucasfilm jointly. But U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ruled the workers can't be lumped together because their cases are too different from each other, Ars Technica reported.
The technology news website said the federal government had settled its hiring practices case against several of the companies in 2010. The companies' top executives were accused of agreeing not to poach each others' best employees. The government said that held down salaries by illegally stifling competition.
The five workers contend they lost out on better salaries because of the agreement.
Ars Techica reported Koh's order quotes Pixar President Ed Catmull writing to Disney, saying "[w]e have avoided wars up here in Norther[n] Caliornia because all of the companies up here—Pixar, ILM [Lucasfilm], Dreamworks, and a couple smaller places—have conscientiously avoided raiding each other."
However, the judge also noted a defense expert argued that any harm was individualized.
The former employees can take another run at the courts, Ars Technica said.