The US Department of Justice on Nov. 9 announced it has secured an agreement with Apple Inc. to resolve allegations that the iPhone creator illegally discriminated in hiring and recruitment by following procedures designed to favor current employees holding temporary visas who wanted to become permanent employees.
Under the agreement, Apple is required to pay up to $25 million in back pay and civil penalties, the largest award that the department has recovered under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The department accused Apple of violating the INA’s anti-discrimination requirements while recruiting for positions falling under the federal Permanent Labor Certification Program, or PERM, which allows employers to sponsor workers for lawful permanent resident status in the US after completing recruitment and meeting other program requirements.
An investigation found that Apple did not advertise positions it sought to fill through the PERM program on its external job website, even though its standard practice was to post other job positions on this website, according to the DOJ. It also required all PERM position applicants to mail paper applications, even though the company permitted electronic applications for other positions. In some instances, Apple did not consider certain applications for PERM positions from Apple employees if those applications were submitted electronically, as opposed to paper applications submitted through the mail. These recruitment procedures nearly always resulted in few or no applications to PERM positions from applicants whose permission to work does not expire, according to the department.
“Creating unlawful barriers that make it harder for someone to seek a job because of their citizenship status will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This resolution reflects the Civil Rights Division’s commitment to ending illegal discriminatory employment practices.”
However, CNBC reported Apple contests the accusation, according to the settlement agreement, and says that it believes it was following Department of Labor regulations. The company also contests that any failures were the result of inadvertent errors and not discrimination.
“Apple proudly employs more than 90,000 people in the United States and continues to invest nationwide, creating millions of jobs. When we realized we had unintentionally not been following the DOJ standard, we agreed to a settlement addressing their concerns,” an Apple spokesperson told CNBC. “We have implemented a robust remediation plan to comply with the requirements of various government agencies as we continue to hire American workers and grow in the US.”
The agreement calls for Apple to pay $6.75 million in civil penalties and establish an $18.25 million back pay fund for eligible discrimination victims. It also requires Apple to ensure that its recruitment for PERM positions more closely matches its standard recruitment practices.
Specifically, Apple will be required to conduct more expansive recruitment for all PERM positions, including posting PERM positions on its external job website, accepting electronic applications and enabling applicants to PERM positions to be searchable in its applicant tracking system. Apple has implemented some of these measures after the department opened its investigation in February 2019. Additionally, Apple will train its employees on the INA’s anti-discrimination requirements and be subject to departmental monitoring for the three-year period of the agreement.