Apple Store logoSource: iMore

What you need to know

  • Apple shareholders have defied the company in a vote over civil rights audits.
  • Shareholders passed a resolution urging Apple to conduct a third-party audit examining civil rights policies.
  • It could impact the handling of issues such as employee management, privacy, and more.

Apple shareholders have defied the companies recommendations and voted to pass measures that could see Apple conduct a third-party audit pertaining to civil rights, as well as a measure to report on concealment clauses used by the company when dealing with disgruntled employees.

Shareholders voted at the company's annual shareholders' meeting on March 4, passing the resolution by a narrow margin.

Back in December it was reported that Apple would face a vote on the matter amidst calls for the company to conduct a new civil rights audit. News at the time cited "employee controversies" and "slow progress in diversifying its workforce." From Apple's official shareholders' meeting proxy statement:

RESOLVED that shareholders of Apple Inc. ("Apple") urge the Board of Directors to oversee a third-party audit analyzing the adverse impact of Apple's policies and practices on the civil rights of company stakeholders, above and beyond legal and regulatory matters, and to provide recommendations for improving the company's civil rights impact. Input from civil rights organizations, employees, and customers should be considered in determining the specific matters to be analyzed. A report on the audit, prepared at reasonable cost and omitting confidential or proprietary information, should be publicly disclosed on Apple's website.

The proposal cited racial inequality, pay equity, privacy (especially Apple's child safety measures and CSAM scanning), and more. Apple recommended voting against the move, at the time stating it was "committed to respecting human rights, including civil rights, and to ensuring everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We work every day to put people first—by being a force for equity and opportunity, creating an inclusive and diverse work environment, respecting the human rights, including the civil rights, of everyone whose lives we touch, and empowering them with accessible technology." The company had claimed it already fulfilled the objectives of the proposal in several ways.

Founder of the #AppleToo movement Cher Scarlett, who filed a labor complaint against the company, said the passing of both measure were "huge wins for past and present employees." "The shareholders voting this way proves that our voices matter, she said — "it's unusual that two proposals went against the direction of the board, and that is directly related to the advocacy around these issues." She continued:

Shareholders heard our stories and believed us, and want Apple to be the company is portrays itself to be. I think breaking my NDA was crucial, and going public with the wage transparency survey issues and data, along with all of the participation of the #AppleToo movement gave the public the same questions employees had.

I believe that both of these proposals will improve working conditions, and reveal much needed improvement in if and how the company holds itself to its equity, inclusion, and diversity promises.

Shareholders voted on a number of issues, including passing Apple's proposed executive compensation package for 2022 despite some opposition.