Apple continues to block employee-run pay equity surveys, which labor lawyers say is illegal

Apple claims it is unconcerned about salary disparities. Skeptical Apple workers have started sending out informal questionnaires on how much people make, particularly as it relates to women and underrepresented minorities, in an attempt to validate that assertion. Three of the polls, however, have been taken down by the firm, citing strict regulations on how staff can gather data. According to numerous labor attorneys, the corporation may be breaking worker protections: the surveys might be considered a form of labor organization, and employees have the right to debate wages under US law.

According to Vincent P. White, a labor lawyer at White, Hilferty & Albanese, “Apple cannot prohibit its employees from discussing pay equality as it relates to protected classes.” “They could warn people not to talk about pronouns if they were. The logical conclusion doesn't even make sense. I see their attempt to shut down this as a kind of retaliation.”

People were asked to give wage information as well as how they identified in terms of color, ethnicity, gender, and handicap in the first known poll, which began in the spring. Apple's people team — the company's term for what is widely known as human resources — requested staff to take the survey down after receiving approximately 100 replies, claiming that the demographic questions contained personally identifying information, or PII.

Employees attempted to start a new pay equity survey last week, but were once again ordered to stop since it included a gender question. The Apple people team apparently told them that because the survey was hosted on the company's corporate Box account, it had to be taken down when they generated a new one without the gender question. “This is like a foreman on the docks in 2021 telling employees they can't compare their salaries to those in the 1800s,” White adds. “This isn't something new. It's merely the latest incarnation of the phrase "you can't talk about your wages."

Employees are asked to volunteer information on their salary, level, team, most recent RSU grant, tenure at Apple, geographic location, signing bonus, relevant work experience, as well as whether they're permanently remote and a member of an underrepresented race or gender in the new survey, which has nearly 500 responses. The poll states, "We want our colleagues and industry peers to be aware of Apple's pay ranges in order to provide minoritized employees and potential employees the confidence to negotiate fair compensation and incentives."

The fact that this information is completely voluntary, according to Grace Reckers of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, should safeguard employees. “This is protected behavior – because you've chosen to participate in the survey, I'm not sure how the PII justification would work or matter.”

Apple's mean and median gender pay gap for UK employees was 12 percent in favor of males in 2018. This is 5 percentage points less than the UK's total gender wage disparity. Under UK law, the firm is required to publish this information, but there are no such obligations in the United States.