What does competition (or antitrust) law have to do with professionals in the
human resources field? A lot more than many HR pros may realize, wrote
London-based McGuireWoods partner
Matthew Hall in a
Nov. 29 column for People Management magazine.
Serious legal pitfalls await companies that — wittingly or sometimes
unwittingly — collude with competitors to fix employee wages and advancement
opportunities, noted Hall, recognized as a leading European antitrust and
competition lawyer. So it’s important that HR practitioners “have at least a
basic understanding of the principles” of competition law.
Even a simple exchange of commercially sensitive information with a
competitor can be cause for concern, he wrote. Besides fines and claims for
civil damages against companies, as well as reputational damage, penalties can
also include fines and even prison time for individuals.
In the United States, the impact of antitrust/competition law in the HR space
has been a major focus and this is now taking root in other regions and
countries, including the European Union and United Kingdom, he said.
Agreements among employers not to recruit certain employees or not to compete
on compensation — all illegal — have been the highest-profile cases so far, Hall
wrote. Pacts that can land employers in legal jeopardy also include those that
would prohibit poaching, soliciting, cold-calling, recruiting or counteroffers
to rivals’ employees, or that constitute collusion on wage ranges, pay
increases, salary caps or benefit levels, to name a few.