Well, just another day, and another string of sexual misconduct claims at a big tech company. This time around, it’s Apple facing the allegations, as a new report from Financial Times sheds light on the mishandling of cases of wrongdoing against women working at the company.
After the colleague drove her home and helped her inside, she briefly fell asleep before waking to the sound of clicking. The colleague had removed her shirt and bra. He was snapping photos, and grinning.
Megan Mohr, an Apple employee went out with her male colleague for a few drinks. Later, Megan’s colleague even drove her home and helped her to her bed, but then took inappropriate pictures while she was asleep. Finally in 2018, inspired by the #MeToo wave, Mohr actually reported the incident to Apple’s HR team. Since she didn’t have any concrete evidence, Mohr didn’t ask for an investigation, and just wanted to report the incident to HR. What followed afterwards was an appalling display of apathy towards women in the workplace. Apple’s HR in an email to Mohr, stated “Although what he did was reprehensible as a person and potentially criminal, as an Apple employee he hasn’t violated any policy in the context of his Apple work, And because he hasn’t violated any policy we will not prevent him seeking employment opportunities that are aligned with his goals and interests.” Apple HR also suggested that proof wouldn’t really matter anyway in this case.
FT also talked to 15 former and current female Apple employees, and unsurprisingly all of them had reservations against the HR team at Apple. Eight of the female employees felt that they were retaliated against after filing a complaint, and rest of the seven employees found the HR division to be very unhelpful.
A Widespread Issue in Silicon Valley
This isn’t really limited to Apple, and has been a concurrent problem in the big tech firms. Back in 2014, the father of Android, Andy Rubin, was forced to leave Google. What wasn’t public however was the grave allegation of sexual misconduct against Rubin. Google even conducted an internal investigation and found the allegation to be credible, but Rubin still received a $90 million payout from Google, with kind parting words from then Google CEO, Larry Page himself.
This again points to a wider culture problem at these tech companies, where management is vehemently protected, even at the face of credible proof.
The FT article also discusses many more accounts of misconduct faced by the women working at Apple. Orit Mizrachi, who spent six years working at Apple, also faced harassment by her manager, and on another occasion from a colleague who sent her sexual messages all day long. Unfortunately here too, the HR team at Apple shrugged off the complaint, and even worse, fired her from her job in lieu of reducing headcount. And as always the company was only looking out for itself, and offered Mizrachi three months of salary, with a lump-sum payment, in exchange for what essentially was a gag order from Apple, discharging them from any further liabilities.
Mizrachi refused to sign. “My friends said I’m an idiot, ‘take the money’,” she says. “But you can’t just pay me to shut up. You have to have a moral compass.”
It’s not that companies can’t change for the better and actually work to promote a healthy work environment. Back in 2020 Google had to settle sexual misconduct, discrimination and retaliation cases for a massive sum of money, but part of that settlement also included new policies that would help the company avoid such events going further. Hopefully Apple too takes a strong stand, and actually starts implementing new policies and take such misconduct allegations more seriously.