Viacom, Inc filed suit against the streaming company in Los Angeles Superior Court this week. The complaint alleges that Netflix illegally recruits their employees from the personnel of rival entertainment companies – a practice which is known as “employee poaching”.
The subject of this alleged poaching is Momita Sengupta, former executive vice president of production management and operations for Viacom who now works for the online entertainment giant. Her sudden departure in September of this year was a breach of her fixed-term contract with Viacom, which was not set to expire until April, 2020.
According to the complaint, “Netflix — in an effort to illegally augment its own workforce by ‘cherry-picking’ employees from other entertainment companies regardless of the nature of their ongoing contractual obligations to their current employer — became aware of Sengupta’s employment and existence of her enforceable, ongoing Employment Agreement with Viacom in or around the summer of 2018,”.
The claim continues to stress that Netflix is unabashed in its pursuit of these employees, “Moreover, Netflix made clear its intent to continue a campaign of targeting and poaching other Viacom executives despite the existence of enforceable term employment agreements between Viacom and its executives by threatening Viacom that Netflix does ‘not regard this dispute to be limited to Ms. Sengupta.”
The suit specified claims for unfair competition and intentional interference with contractual relations. They are seeking damages and a permanent injunction barring Netflix Inc. from obstructing any of Viacom’s fixed-term employment agreements.
This is the second company filing a claim against Netflix for alleged employee poaching. Two years ago, Twentieth Century Fox filed suit against the company in Los Angeles Superior Court for the loss of two of their top executives. A trial on this case is set for Summer, 2019. It is possible that Netflix and Fox will combine their claims in a joint action against Netflix.
Alisha Bruce is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).