Apple again denied chance to dismiss employee discrimination lawsuit

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What you need to know

  • Apple is being sued by a former employee in California.
  • Anita Nariani Schulze alleges she was treated as a subservient by her managers because of her Hindu Indian background.
  • A judge has again ruled that Apple cannot have the case dismissed.

A judge has ruled that Apple cannot have an employee discrimination case filed against the company dismissed in a recent court ruling, the second such setback in the case for the company.

Anita Nariani Schulze is suing Apple over claims that as a Hindu Indian woman, she was treated "as subservient" by her Hindu Indian Senior Manager, and her Direct Manager, who was a Muslim Pakistani man. A court filing this week explains the allegation:

"Apple hired Ms. Schulze as a Technical Engineer in 2008. (SAC, ¶ 11.) Her Senior Manager was a Hindu Indian man and her Direct Manager was a Muslim Pakistani man (collectively, "Managers"). (Id., ¶ 12.) Ms. Schulze is a Hindu Indian woman whose ancestry traces back to the Sindh region of modern-day Pakistan, one of numerous regions greatly impacted by the 1947 partition of what was then "British India" into what is now modern-day India and Pakistan. (Ibid.) This partition created friction between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the Sindh region, often resulting in violence, and spurred a mass migration of people both in and out of the region. (Ibid.) Plaintiff's Managers knew of and were familiar with her racial, national, and religious heritage. (Ibid.) Their respective nationalities historically viewed women as subservient, and they treated Ms. Schulze as subservient."

Schulze alleges that over the course of 2016 through 2018, she was passed over for bonuses and awards of Restricted Stock Units that her male colleagues received, and that Apple retaliated when she raised this with HR:

In November 2018, Plaintiff complained to Human Resources that she was not receiving promised compensation from Apple because she is a woman. (SAC, ¶ 17.) In response, Apple began to retaliate against her. Plaintiff's supervisors required her to attend daily meetings and circulated notes that did not accurately convey what happened at the meetings and portrayed Plaintiff in a negative light. (Ibid.) Her supervisors also issued poor performance reviews, using these reviews as an excuse to implement a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP"), and placing Ms. Schulze on an internal "Do Not Hire List." (Ibid.) Defendant's stated reason for implementing the PIP was as a response to Plaintiff missing required meetings. (Ibid.) But Ms. Schulze only missed two meetings and her absences were due to illness and childcare. (Ibid.) Plaintiff notified her supervisor that she disagreed with the underlying basis of the PIP and her supervisor verbally agreed with her. (Ibid.) But the supervisor told Ms. Schulze that she would still need to sign the PIP. (Ibid.)

The court previously ruled that whilst Apple could not have the case dismissed, Schulze would not be allowed to represent other female Apple employees as part of a class-action lawsuit, claiming her allegations did not show a pattern of discrimination.

In a new ruling the court reiterated its stance that newly filed allegations by Schulze did not solve the previous issues pertaining to a class action lawsuit. The court further overruled Apple's demurrer to some of the plaintiff's claims regarding how she was allegedly treated. Having previously stated she was put on a Performance Improvement Plan and an internal do-not-hire list, her second amended complaint built on the allegations:

The SAC alleges more details about how Plaintiff was prevented from moving to another team at Apple. It also describes how her supervisors required her to attend daily meetings and circulated notes that did not accurately convey what happened at the meetings and portrayed Plaintiff in a "negative light." (SAC, ¶ 17.) Defendant contends that this still does not suffice.

Schulze says that she was subject to a "continuous pattern of discrimination" pre-dating being place on the PIP, and "alleges that she was long held to a higher standard than male employees and, after she complained of perceived discrimination, her supervisors escalated their unequal treatment by requiring her to respond to a baseless PIP in an unusually short time and forbidding her from seeking another internal position, as other employees could do."

Finally, the court noted Apple's motion to strike the claim:

In light of the Court's ruling on Apple's demurrer, Apple's alternative motion to strike Ms. Schulze's class and representative allegations is MOOT. Again, Apple cites no authority in support of its request for costs associated with this motion, so that request is DENIED.

It recently emerged that Apple employees within the company had two internal surveys about pay transparency shut down by Apple, over concerns the data being collected could personally identify people, and because one was hosted on the company's corporate Box account. In response, Apple employees are hosting a third survey externally using Typeform, which has since garnered more than 1,800 responses.

Apple, for its part, says that its Business conduct policy does not preclude employees from talking about their wages, hours, or working conditions, and states that it conducts yearly pay reviews to maintain pay equity. The company was awarded a 'B' by Arjuna Capital in its most recent Racial and Gender Pay scorecard. iMore has reached out to Apple for comment on Schulze's case.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9