Netflix is planning to appeal a court ruling after it was told to stop poaching staff from Fox, marking the latest development in the two companies’ long-running legal dispute over the hiring of staff.
Fox started suing Netflix over the alleged executive poaching back in 2016, after Tara Flynn and Marcos Waltenberg moved to the streamer.
According to the complaint, Netflix had encouraged Flynn, who had worked at Fox 21 Television Studios since 2013, and Waltenberg to breach their contracts.
Following three years of legal battles, judge Marc Gross confirmed his initial ruling made in November, which bars Netflix from poaching Fox staff. It also said Netflix should not “solicit employees” who are subject to fixed-term agreements with the now Disney-owned company.
Netflix had argued the fixed-term contracts, and the ability to extend them, meant execs could be stuck in jobs they might not have wanted to be in. Fox countered that the streamer had tried to induce potential employees to break their deals.
In his ruling Gross said: “The undisputed facts show Netflix intentionally interfered with Fox’s contracts with Waltenberg and Flynn. In doing so, Netflix arguably sought to further its own economic interest at Fox’s expense, and such conduct is not justified.”
Netflix is likely to appeal, according to US reports, while the award of $1m damages to Fox will be decided by a jury in January, if the matter is not settled before.
Fox lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said: “Today’s ruling brings to an end years of unlawful practices by Netflix. The decision not only condemns Netflix’s deliberate violations of the law, but just as importantly reaffirms and protects the rights and choices of employees.”
Netflix reiterated its statement from November following the initial ruling.
“As judge Gross ruled, Fox failed to prove it was hurt in any way when two executives decided to exercise their right to go to Netflix. Fox’s illegal contracts force employees to remain trapped in jobs they no longer wish to do and at salaries far below market rate.
“We will continue to fight to make sure that people who work in the entertainment industry have the same rights as virtually every other Californian and can make their own choices about where they work.”