HP heads to court as Austin IT staffers jump ship and move to GM

After seeing 18 key IT staffers suddenly quit to take new jobs at General Motors, Hewlett-Packard has asked a Texas court for permission to depose two former managers to find out if employment contracts were violated.

HP is involved in an ongoing restructuring effort that includes thousands of job cuts, but these employee departures were apparently unexpected and unwelcome.

HP reduced its overall workforce by 17,800 employees in 2012, advancing more than halfway toward its goal, announced last May, of cutting its worldwide head count by 29,000, or 8.3%, as part of a turnaround effort. As of Oct. 31, HP employed 331,800 people worldwide, according to its Dec. 27 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Most of the cuts came via layoffs, but some didn't. On Nov. 30, 18 of HP's Austin-based IT workers "resigned en masse and without notice" and "immediately began working" for GM's new Austin IT Innovation Center, according to court documents filed by HP in December.

A longtime HP customer, GM has said that it is moving away from outsourcing and is bringing some of its IT work back in-house. As part of that effort, it is filling 500 positions to staff the new IT center in Austin.

In its filing with the Travis County, Texas, district court, HP said the departures affected at least four teams in its IT organization, and it further stated that it "strongly suspects that something other than mere coincidence" is behind the mass resignations.

A GM spokesman declined to comment.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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