Apple promises workplace change following harassment claims

Side of Apple Park building
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has admitted it should have handled harassment and misconduct claims made by women at the company in a different manner following a story that interviewed 15 current and former female employees. 

The revelation came by way of a new Financial Times piece into the plight of 15 former and current female Apple employees. The story begins with Megan Mohr, who went for a "platonic night out drinking" with a male colleague in 2013, five years into her Apple career. 

"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," the story explains. According to Mohr and FT, a complaint in 2018 led to Apple stating that because the incident hadn't taken place at work Apple couldn't really help her "even if the offender would have admitted to taking the images." 

Not an isolated incident

FT says that Mohr's experience with Apple's People department "has echoes across at least seven Apple departments spanning six US states" following interviews with 15 female Apple employees both current and former. 

"The women shared allegations of Apple’s apathy in the face of misconduct claims," the report says, noting that seven of the women said HR was "disappointing or counterproductive." More shockingly, eight women say they were retaliated against after making misconduct claims. 

In a statement of response, Apple told the outlet that it "works hard to thoroughly investigate all misconduct allegations and that it strives to create 'an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting any issues.'" However, the company admitted that some accounts including those reported in the story "do not reflect our intentions or our policies" and that the company "should have handled them differently." 

On a more positive note, Apple said "as a result, we will make changes to our training and processes," but did not specify what that might entail. 

The report also cites former HR employees at the company, one who said that the company "is so singularly obsessed about making the best products, that there are blinders to everything else." 

Beyond the 15 women interviewed, the report notes a more general problem "with office culture and middle-management, particularly for women" displayed in ratings on Glassdoor and Comparably. Women at Apple rate their direct managers far lower than men, and across 14 departments HR was rated the worst with a score of 65 out of 100 by employees. 

The report also notes the swathe of #Appletoo claims that were made last year, possibly indicating these problems are more widespread. 

The most 'prominent' employee highlighted is a former director in Apple's legal department, Jayna Whitt, who led Apple's "thermonuclear war" against Samsung. 

Whitt alleged "that a colleague had hacked her devices and threatened her life after an abusive relationship," but was left feeling "humiliated, exposed and less safe" by the company's HR department, who "took little interest in allegations that took place outside of its campus." Shockingly, Whitt also received a reprimand from Employee Relations for allowing a personal relationship to affect her work performance, the department having deemed that she "failed to act in a professional and work appropriate manner" at a meeting where she had described her trauma and begged for help. Whitt is now mounting a legal challenge Apple. 

The full report, which includes details of harassment against women, can be found here. 

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