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December 20, 2021

Anti-trust suit against Pratt, subcontractors, seeks class-action status

pratt & whitney east hartford manufacturing Photo | Pratt & Whitney A Pratt & Whitney engine.

A man who formerly worked for a contract engineering company in East Hartford filed a federal antitrust lawsuit Tuesday against his former employer, several other engineering subcontractors, and Pratt & Whitney, alleging that they conspired to limit job opportunities, wages, and benefits for him and other employees.

The plaintiff, David Granata, who now lives in Rhode Island, is described in the lawsuit as a “skilled employee,” who worked for QuEST Global Services from 2013 to March 2018, primarily on projects for Pratt.

His lawyers — from the Milford firm of Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff and the New York firm of Labaton Sucharow — are seeking court approval to pursue the suit as a class action. They want to represent virtually all employees affected by what they allege was a “no poach” agreement among Pratt and its engineering subcontractors to avoid offering competitive pay and benefits to engineers and other skilled employees from 2011 to 2019.

In addition to Pratt and QuEST, the companies named as defendants in the lawsuit are Belcan Engineering Group, an Ohio company with an office in East Hartford; Cyient Inc., formerly known as Infotech Enterprises Inc., of East Hartford; Parametric Solutions of Jupiter, Florida; and Agilis Engineering of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The lawsuit also names as defendants a number of employees and executives of the defendant companies, including Mahesh Patel, a former Pratt employee from Glastonbury who was arrested last week on a federal antitrust charge. He was released on a $100,000 bond.

Granata’s civil lawsuit makes many similar allegations to those in a federal agent’s criminal complaint against Patel. A major difference is that the suit names all the companies and most of the individuals it accuses of wrongdoing, while the criminal complaint identifies only Patel, referring to others accused of involvement in the conspiracy by letters or numbers.

Granata alleges in the lawsuit that he earned less than he otherwise would have during the years he spent at QuEST due to a “no poach” agreement, in which the defendants agreed not to hire engineers and other skilled employees away from each other, at least for certain periods.

The lawsuit seeks payment of three times the amount Granata and other employees were underpaid due to the anti-competitive conduct alleged in the suit, as well as their legal fees and other costs of suing.

The corporate defendants other than Pratt made a business of doing engineering projects for Pratt for set prices. Yet they competed with Pratt to hire engineers and other skilled workers, the lawsuit says.

The defendants “worked together to avoid soliciting or hiring their respective workers,” the lawsuit alleges. “The ultimate purpose of the conspiracy was to avoid competing on wages and benefits.”

The suit says there were weekly meetings between senior managers at QuEST and Pratt, including Patel, to discuss engineer applications.

“Out of around 50 applications per week, a majority of applicants were explicitly categorized into a subset of individuals ‘not permitted to interview at P&W,” the suit alleges.

Statutes of limitations restrict the time periods for which plaintiffs can seek compensation for harm. But the lawsuit alleges that those limitation periods are inapplicable because the defendants “fraudulently concealed” their conspiracy to violate federal anti-trust laws.

It cites codes of conduct of several of the companies, including United Technologies Corp., which was Pratt’s parent company until it merged with Raytheon in 2020. The suit quotes the UTC code as saying, “Anti-competitive activities are always a violation of our core values.”

Attempts to reach Pratt and other corporate defendants in the lawsuit for comment Wednesday didn’t immediately succeed.

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