Apple to Allow Employees to Speak Freely About Discrimination and Harassment

Discrimination and harassment are quite prevalent in workplaces across the United States of America. No employee should ever be prevented from discussing their experiences of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. However, the reality is that some employers make employees sign employment agreements that prevent them from speaking freely about discrimination and harassment. Apple Inc. is one of the companies that has faced accusations of including provisions in their employment agreements restricting an employee’s ability to speak freely about harassment or discrimination. After shareholders pressured Apple Inc. about its practices, Apple promised to limit its use of nondisclosure agreements and clarified its policies on workers’ rights to speak out in cases of harassment and discrimination.  

In March, more than 50% of Apple’s investors approved a shareholder proposal for a report on the company’s use of concealment clauses. The investors approved this proposal after controversy about Apple’s claim that it does not try to prevent former workers from speaking freely. In December, Apple finally released the report. As per the report, the outside counsel hired to evaluate the tech giant’s policies found that the policies are sound. However, Apple said it would commit to avoiding preventing workers from speaking freely about harassment and discrimination. 

In the report, Apple said that in the circumstances where the outside counsel found provisions in the company’s employment agreements that would be understood as preventing a worker’s ability to speak freely about harassment or discrimination, it would not enforce those restrictions. Apple said that it would make amendments and clarifications moving forward. Also, according to the report, the tech giant is complying with applicable laws. For example, the company is complying with a California law known as the “Silenced No More Act” that limits the use of confidentiality clauses in employment agreements in cases of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. 

The Silenced No More Act of California

The Silenced No More Act of California (Senate Bill 331) was approved in October 2021. SB 331 took effect on January 1, 2022. The Silenced No More Act extended the use of confidentiality provisions to certain employment-related settlement agreements. Before SB 331 went into effect, Senate Bill 820, also known as the STAND Act, only restricted the use of such provisions in agreements related to sexual assault and harassment. The Silenced No More Act extended the confidentiality provisions that relate to any claim of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. SB 331 broadened the restrictions under SB 820 to include harassment and discrimination claims based on any characteristic protected under the FEHA, including;

  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Disability 
  • Ethnicity 

For a long time, employment-related settlement agreements have supported secrecy. This secrecy has prevented answerability and justice and promoted disrespect. Employees do not deserve to be forced into employment-related settlement agreements that defend wrongdoers and keep harming others. The move by Apple offers many people hope. 

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

If you are a California employee who has been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace and has been silenced by your employer, contact a California employment lawyer near you for legal help.