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.