Apple: End Forced Arbitration

Apple Inc.

Apple should end the use of non-disclosure and forced arbitration for employee harassment discrimination claims. Restore your employees’ rights to access the court system after disputes arise with Apple.

Mushrooming revelations of sexual harassment at the hands of powerful individuals have shone a bright light on how forced arbitration provisions silence complaints of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Public claims are not isolated incidents: fifty-five percent of senior-level women say that they have been sexually harassed during their careers. [1] And non-disclosure and forced arbitration prevent employees from learning about similar concerns shared by their co-workers. [2]

Prospective employees are often presented with fine-print “take-it-or-leave-it” employment agreements, where their only option is to sign or give up the job opportunity. Faced with this choice, few refuse to sign. Yet, these agreements can stack the deck against abused employees, depriving them of their day in court if they are the victim of harassment or abuse in the workplace. Instead, people are forced into biased, secretive arbitration proceedings with a corporate-hired arbitrator rather than a neutral judge, and an almost impossible burden to meet in order to appeal a ruling.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, 60.1 million people, more than half of non-union, private sector employees, have signed away their right to go to court if harmed by their employer. [3]

Forced arbitration clauses present business risks to Apple. A corporate culture that tolerates harassment risks lost productivity and employee discontent. For example, 20,000 Google employees participated in a walk-out to protest the company’s management of sexual harassment. [4] Lawsuits have increased in the wake of elevated public attention to sexual harassment, costing companies $70 million in 2018. [5]

In September, the ACLU, NAACP, and dozens of other organizations wrote a letter requesting that Apple remove forced arbitration provisions from its employee contracts. [6] Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Uber [7] have already ended mandatory arbitration.

The Federal Arbitration Act was enacted in 1925 to ensure that certain corporations with equal bargaining power could use arbitration to resolve complex legal matters. The law was never envisioned as one that would allow corporations to force arbitration on powerless workers.

 

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-metoo-has-to-do-with-the-workplace-gender-gap-1540267680

[2] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/systemic/review/

[3] https://www.epi.org/files/pdf/135056.pdf

[4] https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/2/18057716/google-walkout-20-thousand-employees-ceo-sundar-pichai-meeting

[5] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/10-4-18.cfm

[6] https://gizmodo.com/aclu-naacp-and-dozens-of-other-groups-call-out-tech-g-1829234537

[7] https://www.recode.net/2018/11/9/18081520/facebook-forced-arbitration-change-sexual-harassment-uber-google