Apple Practice of Changing Former Employee Titles to ‘Associate’, Spurs Complaint
Former Apple software engineer and #AppleToo founder, Cher Scarlett, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against her ex-employer for changing her job title to “associate” in databases that employers regularly refer to for verification of past employment records, reports The Washington Post
In her complaint, Scarlett alleges that the title change cost her a job opportunity with a potential employer. The discrepancy could not be reconciled with Apple and delayed the hiring process by nearly a week, during which the company rescinded its offer.
Scarlett isn’t the only one, though. Apple changes the job title for every single employee, whether they are a Ph.D. in computer science or a product manager, to “associate” once they depart from the tech giant, a company spokesman confirmed.
“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters,” said Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock, to the Post.
Rosenstock did not offer up a reason for the practice or say exactly when it began.
The title an ex-Apple employee held when they left the company can heavily influence the kind of opportunities they have when they go back on the job market.
The difference between a “level 4” engineer at Apple and a “level 5,” for instance, could mean a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, so their former job title holds a lot of weight in determining how much an Apple employee can make after they leave and transition to another job.
Experts in employment practices say Apple’s approach is both unprecedented and bizarre. The title of “associate” is typically used to describe or tacked on to more junior employment roles.
Following her efforts, hundreds of employees have shared stories of what the group calls “persistent patterns of racism, sexism, inequity, discrimination, intimidation, suppression, coercion, abuse, unfair punishment and unchecked privilege.” Scarlett left the company in November of last year.
Other former employees have also spoken out about the practice after Scarlett’s hardships brought it to light. Janneke Parrish, another #AppleToo founder, said the title changes can have “devastating consequences” for former employees whose job titles correspond to their technical expertise, regardless of it being standard practice for Apple.
“Doing this severely limits the ability for ex-Apple employees to verify past employment, especially if they left on bad terms. It essentially forces us to stay in Apple’s good graces for those references as verification,” she said.
“Irrespective of the reasons why they are doing it, this is a very bad and possibly unlawful practice,” Laurie Burgess, an employment law attorney who represents Parrish in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case against Apple.
“Seems to me that this action interferes with employees’ reasonable future economic interests.”
Having every single former employee listed as an “associate” in the most commonly used employment verification databases can make it cumbersome for potential employers to corroborate the job titles of candidates who have previously worked for the iPhone maker.
Apple does offer a phone number companies can call to verify the titles of ex-Apple employees, but calling it simply plays a voice recording directing you to the website of employment verification service provider InVerify.