Apple employees want to know if they’re being paid equitably, so some of them have been sending surveys to their colleagues to collect compensation information. The surveys are all opt-in, and several hundred people have participated so far.
The surveys stem in part from the fact that, in 2016, Tim Cook told investors that Apple had largely tackled pay inequality at the company. Women at Apple made 99.6 cents for every dollar men made, and underrepresented minorities made 99.7 cents for every dollar white workers made, Apple said. Those numbers probably sounded too good to be true to some people, and questionnaires started popping up in recent months.
At least two surveys were pulled by their authors, The Verge reported, after Apple’s “people team”—what some companies call human resources—claimed various infractions. Apple HR said the first survey’s questions about race, gender, ethnicity, and disability constituted personally identifying information. They nixed the second because it was hosted on the corporate Box account. When reached for comment, an Apple spokesperson would not confirm why the first two surveys were halted.
Now, employees are hosting a new survey using their own TypeForm account, and this one appears to have gained Apple’s tacit blessing. At the very least, it doesn’t seem to have run afoul of any personnel regulations.
The latest version was started by Apple engineer Cher Scarlett. “I was looking at levels.fyi (a website that lets people compare salary data across companies) and noticed a few very low salaries in a certain geographic area that were 10 to 15 percent lower compared to other people on the team,” Scarlett told The Verge. “Every time I looked at gender, they were women. I’m not going to say that’s a definitive issue, but it’s a prompt for anyone to ask if this is a widespread problem. We should be able to easily find out whether or not that’s the case so we can know whether people are truly being paid fairly.”
Voluntary surveys like the kind Apple employees have posted may be protected as a form of union organizing precisely because they include questions about race, gender, ethnicity, and disability. “Apple cannot bar its employees from discussing pay equity as it relates to protected classes,” Vincent P. White, a labor lawyer with White, Hilferty, & Albanese, told The Verge.
When asked for comment, the Apple spokesperson pointed to the company’s business conduct policy, which supports employees’ right to discuss pay and other work-related issues. It reads: “[N]othing in this Policy should be interpreted as being restrictive of your right to speak freely about your wages, hours, or working conditions.” The spokesperson also pointed to the inclusion and diversity page on its website, which says, “Apple has a firm and long‑standing commitment to pay equity. Globally, employees of all genders earn the same when engaging in similar work with comparable experience and performance. In the United States, the same is true for employees of all races and ethnicities.” It’s unclear if Apple shares any additional information with employees regarding pay equity.
Apple has made privacy one of the company’s hallmarks, and internal surveys run by employees themselves are unlikely to pose privacy issues. While the surveys may include questions about personally identifying information, they’re entirely voluntary and give employees access to much the same information—albeit anonymized—that their employers already have on file.