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A legal challenge to an alleged no-hire agreement between Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has survived an important test. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles rejected the universities’ request to dismiss a lawsuit from an assistant professor of radiology at Duke who claimed that she’d been denied a job at North Carolina due to an alleged agreement that the two universities wouldn’t recruit from each others’ faculties.
The class-action suit brought by that professor, Danielle Seaman, alleges that the secret agreement was binding, with the intent to artificially suppress wages, and violates antitrust laws. The recent court decision includes a denial of state action immunity against antitrust liability, based on the defendants’ argument that they should be exempt from federal antitrust laws because a state university and health system is involved. Seaman’s attorney, Dean Harvey, said in a statement that the decision “confirmed that secret agreements in restraint of trade are not immune from the antitrust laws simply because a co-conspirator is a state employee.” A spokesperson for Duke declined comment, as did a spokesperson for North Carolina.