Apple constantly closes employee surveys on payroll — and labor lawyers say it’s illegal

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Apple demands it has no problems with the pay gap. Skeptical Apple employees have tried to confirm this claim by sending informal questionnaires about how much people earn, especially when it comes to women and under-represented minorities. But the company has closed three of these surveys, citing strict rules on how employees can collect data. Now several labor lawyers are telling Limit the company may breach the protection of workers: questionnaires can be considered as a form of work organization – Under U.S. law, employees have the right to discuss pay.

“Apple can’t stop its employees from discussing payroll when it comes to protected classes,” says Vincent P. White, a lawyer at White, Hilferty & Albanese. “If they were, they could urge people not to talk about pronouns. Its logical growth does not even follow. I see their efforts to shut this down in retaliation. “

The first known survey began in the spring, asking people to provide voluntary salary information in addition to how they identify race, ethnic origin, gender, and disability. After about 100 responses, Apple’s human resources team – the name of the company commonly referred to as human resources – asked employees to remove the survey, saying Demographics were personal information or PII.

Last week, employees tried to start a new payroll survey, but were again asked to remove it because it included a question about gender. When they conducted a new survey without a gender issue, Apple’s population team argued that it should be closed because it is hosted on a company’s corporate account.

“This is like a 2021 version of a yard manager who tells people they can’t compare their pay in the 19th century,” White says. “This is not new. It’s just the latest version of ‘you can’t talk about your salary’.”

A group of people also sent employees the following information about “prohibited queries”:

Prohibited queries
Subsequent personnel surveys are prohibited in all cases and may not be conducted.

Surveys for data collection

Surveys should not be used as a means of collecting information about identifiable employees without following the normal process of obtaining this information from the People team. This includes all questions about the employee’s address, demographics, and so on, except for the country or area of ​​collection that is allowed.

The use of questionnaires as a tool for collecting health data – including but not limited to health reports, test results and vaccination status – is also prohibited.

All requests for personally identifiable information must be sent to the People team through the People Report request form. If approved, the People team will provide employee information directly from their systems.

Queries requesting diversity information
Diversity information is highly sensitive personal information. If you need such information, you must work with your I&D business partner and the I&D Insights and Solutions team before collecting the information.

“These rules may themselves infringe the protected right to cooperate – although [Apple] may refer to these handbook-type rules that you are committed not to do this as a working condition, but that doesn’t mean they can legally prevent employees from doing what they do, ”says UC law professor Veena Dubal. Hastings.

Now, Apple engineer Cher Scarlett has started a new survey on Typeform, which she pays out of pocket. “I looked at level.fyi (a site that allows people to compare salary data between different companies) and noticed a few very small salaries in a particular geographic area that were 10 to 15 percent lower than other team members,” Scarlett says. “Every time I looked at sex, they were women. I’m not saying it’s the ultimate problem, but it’s a call for everyone to ask if this is a widespread problem. We should be able to easily find out whether this is the case or not, so that we can know whether people are really being paid a fair wage. “

A new survey of nearly 500 entries asks employees to provide voluntary information about their salary, level, team, most recent RSU grant, Apple tenure, geographic location, signature bonus, relevant work experience, and whether they are permanently distant and a member of an underrepresented race or gender.

“We want our colleagues and industry colleagues to be familiar with Apple’s pay zones and give a minimum level of confidence to employees and potential employees to negotiate fair salaries and bonuses,” the survey states.

Grace Reckers, organizer of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, says the fact that this information is all voluntary should protect employees. “This is a protected activity – because you participated in the survey, I don’t even know how the PII excuse would work or mean.”

Scarlett says Apple’s response to the surveys has only made employees more suspicious: “I don’t think anyone is talking about this saying for sure in the pay gap, be it gender, race or disability. But it’s worrying to everyone that every time someone tries to create more transparency, Apple shuts it down. It feels like maybe there is a problem and they are already aware of it. “

In 2018, Apple’s average and average gender pay gap in the UK was 12 percent on behalf of men. It is 5 percentage points lower than the overall gender pay gap in the UK. The Company is required to disclose this information in accordance with United Kingdom law, but does not have the same requirements in the United States.

Two years earlier, Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors that Apple women contributed 99.6 cents for every dollar men made, while underrepresented minorities accounted for 99.7 cents for every white worker. In the same year, the company published a diversity report saying it fixed the problem.

Apple did not respond to the request for comment Limit.

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