In what may seem to be a surprising series of events, given the state’s infamous hostility to restrictive covenants, a California appellate panel recently affirmed a Los Angeles Superior Court judgment effectively enjoining Netflix from soliciting certain employees subject to specific fixed-term employment agreements with Fox. More specifically, the panel—applying reasoning similar to the California Supreme Court’s in Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc.—upheld the trial court’s granting of summary adjudication in favor of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Fox 21, Inc. (collectively, “Fox”) on their claim under Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. against Netflix Inc. (“Netflix”) and corresponding injunction in an unpublished but closely followed decision.
In affirming the judgment, the panel expressly rejected Netflix’s contention that the injunction, which prohibits Netflix, “individually … and/or in concert with others,” from “solicit[ing] employees who are subject to [f]ixed-[t]erm [e]mployment [a]greements with [Fox] or induc[ing] such employees to breach their valid [f]ixed-[t]erm [e]mployment [a]greements with [Fox],” constituted “an invalid restraint on employee mobility” under California public policy, Business and Professions Code section 16600, and other statutes concerning personal services contracts. The panel acknowledged each of these arguments and underlying public policy concerns, but ultimately found that they were not supported by the facts at hand, particularly in light of countervailing policies “favoring the stability and predictability of fixed-term employment relationships.” The panel also observed that the injunction had been carefully limited, and narrowly drawn by the trial court to curb wrongful conduct by Netflix without impeding the ability of individual employees to independently seek out new employment.
Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Affirms Injunction Barring Netflix From Poaching Fox Executives, Citing Unfair Competition