Apple Backs Down After Outcry About Illegal Hiring Policy

Apple has rescinded its discriminatory policy of refusing to hire construction workers with felony records. The story was first broken by the San Francisco Chronicle, which reported that several workers hired to build the company's new Cupertino campus were ordered to leave the site. The story quotes Kevin Yip, 26, who had pleaded no contest to a charge in 2008 after getting into a physical altercation. In the skirmish, a man's jaw was broken, though Yip claims he had nothing to do with it. He told reporter Wendy Lee, "It’s not fair for people’s pasts to come back...and not be able to support their family and stay out of trouble.”


Michael Theriault, president of the iron workers union, and union business manager Dennis Meakin, wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Attorney General Kamala Harris in January urging the company to change their policy. The matter was also taken up by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who publicly denounced the ban. Mark Ames wrote a series of short pieces about the controversy and put the restrictions into context at PandoDaily:

Using background checks on construction workers to discriminate against those charged with or convicted of felonies is reportedly very rare in the construction industry, one of the industries that provide opportunities for ex-convicts to get back on their feet in life. Discrimination against ex-offenders is a major ongoing problem that exacerbates poverty, inequality and racism; in an incarceration-mad state like California, Apple’s policy imposed on construction companies it hires means worsening inequality and cycles of poverty for a problem that disproportionately affects people of color.

The Equal Opportunity Commission has interpreted the Civil Rights Act to require that employers cite a business necessity if they're going to bar ex-convicts from working. Last year, the mayor of San Francisco signed "Ban the Box" legislation into law, making it illegal for a company of over 20 employees to ask about a person's criminal history. (Apple obviously has a lot more than 20 employees.)

Yesterday, Apple released a statement to the San Jose Mercury News which reads:

It recently came to our attention that, as part of a background check process unique to the Apple Campus 2 construction project, a few applicants were turned away because they had been convicted of a felony within the past seven years. We recognize that this may have excluded some people who deserve a second chance. We have now removed that restriction and instructed our contractors on the project to evaluate all applicants equally, on a case-by-case basis, as we would for any role at Apple.

It seems clear that public pressure forced Apple to change its policy. Apple's statement also appears to indicate it is aware of the fact that it broke the law.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.