In widely used databases that companies refer to to verify job information, Apple changes the job title of every employee, whether it’s a PhD in computer science or a product manager, in “partner”, confirms the company.
Apple’s approach is bizarre, even unique, according to employment practice experts, but so far it has gone largely unnoticed except for a handful of applicants whose resumes conflict with official databases maintained by employment verification services run by companies such as Equifax and LexisNexis.
The title “associate” is generally used to refer to more junior roles. Entry-level retail workers, for example, are often referred to as associates. Law firms refer to recent law school hires in the same way, and in universities, associate professors are ranked below those with the title “professor”.
The practice recently came to light when Cher Scarlett, a former Apple software engineer who raised concerns about allegations of discrimination and misconduct at the company, filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that when Apple changed its job title to “partner”, it delayed the hiring process with a potential employer by nearly a week, during which time the company rescinded the offer. Scarlett said the job verification service hired to check her resume was unable to resolve the discrepancy with Apple.
Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock confirmed that for years Apple changed the job titles of its former employees to “associate”. Rosenstock declined to say why Apple is doing this or precisely when the practice began.
“We are and always have been deeply committed to creating and sustaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and thoroughly investigate each time a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of those involved, we do not discuss employee-specific matters,” he said. .
Scarlett, a software engineer on Apple’s security team, last year helped found the #AppleToo movement, which encourages company employees to report misconduct. In mostly anonymous testimonials, hundreds of employees shared stories of what the group calls “persistent patterns of racism, sexism, inequality, discrimination, intimidation, repression, coercion, abuse, unjust punishment and unchecked privilege”. She left the company last year after saying she was bullied and retaliated against.
On September 1, Scarlett filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that Apple’s practices violate federal labor laws. The case is under investigation. In October, Scarlett filed a whistleblower complaint with the SEC, accusing Apple of misleading investors when it issued a statement to shareholders claiming it did not use hiding clauses in separation agreements or employee settlements. Scarlett says Apple asked her to sign such a clause when she left the company.
Apple declined to comment on its specific allegations or specific employee issues.
Some former employees, previously unaware of the title changes, criticized Apple for the practice. Janneke Parrish, another founder of #AppleToo, who was fired by the company after criticizing it for alleged labor rights violations, said that while Apple changes titles in the database for all of its employees , it can have “devastating consequences” for some former employees. where specific titles represent levels of technical expertise. (Parrish filed a complaint with the NLRB against Apple; she said she was told she was fired for deleting apps and files from a company phone during an investigation by the company, but she thinks it’s because of her activism.)
“This severely limits the ability of former Apple employees to verify their previous employment, especially if they left on bad terms. It essentially forces us to stay in Apple’s good graces for these references as verification,” she said.
Apple offers a phone number that employers can call to verify the credentials of former Apple employees. A voice recording on this line directs callers to the website of InVerify, a provider of employment verification services owned by credit reporting agency Equifax. When The Washington Post called InVerify’s customer support number, a customer service representative said Apple was the only company he knew of that changed employees’ job titles when they left. Apple is also changing the titles of employees who have taken time off, the person said.
The rep said he gets a few calls a month from people trying to get the exact job titles of former Apple employees. If the caller can provide the employee’s full social security number, InVerify is able to look up the person’s old payroll information and verify the job title that way.
Equifax did not respond to a request for comment.
But even people who verify job titles for a living may be confused by the byzantine system of verifying accurate job titles for former Apple employees. Emails between Scarlett and Sterling, an employment verification firm hired by her future employer, show that Sterling’s employees were confused when her title came back as “associate” when they checked the database. ‘Equifax, called Work Number, end of January.
Unable to verify Scarlett’s title, a Seattle Cancer Care Alliance recruiter, who had offered her a job, emailed her asking if she could provide references at Apple who might be able to independently verify her title. “I hope you are having a good day! Could you help me with the discrepancy between the job title and Apple?” the recruiter wrote in a post reviewed by The Post. ‘Apple? I will need to submit references from Apple confirming the job title. Scarlett provided the name of a human resources employee she had dealt with in the past.
“Whatever their reasons are, this is a very bad and possibly illegal practice,” said Laurie Burgess, an employment lawyer who represents Parrish in his case against Apple. “It appears to me that this action interferes with the employees’ reasonable future economic interests.”
Cher Scarlett filed the NLRB complaint against Apple on September 1, not August 7. This article has been corrected.