Apple female engineers paid less than males, lawsuit claims

More legal woes for Apple this week, as thousands of female employees join a class action lawsuit filed on Thursday, accusing the company of 'willfully' engaging in unfair wage discrimination based on gender.

More than 12,000 female Apple employees in California claim they were paid less that men for the same or similar job roles at the tech giant.

The 20 page-complaint states the “sex discrimination” took place in Apple’s engineering, marketing, and AppleCare divisions.

Apple’s headquarters are located in the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino, about an hour south of the San Francisco courts where the suit was filed by two women – Justina Jong and Amina Salgado – on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Both women have been employed by Apple since 2012 and 2013 respectively in various roles including developer relations and for the AppleCare division.

Lawyers for the women say that Apple discriminated against its female employees by paying women lower wage rates than men for “substantially similar work under similar working conditions.”

Apple class action lawsuit equal pay
A class action lawsuit accusing Apple Inc. of wage discrimination is filed on behalf of female employees in San Francisco, California courts. June 13th, 2024.

Furthermore, since at least 2018, Apple has used female applicants' prior salaries as “pay expectations” to set a lower starting salary for new female hires, ​even though that practice had a “disparate impact” on the women employees, the law firm said.

The filing claims the unequal pay scale was “willful” and “without any justification.”

The lawsuit slams Apple’s performance evaluation system as “biased against women,” particularly in scored categories such as teamwork and leadership.

In the performance reviews, female employees would be penalized for the same behaviors their male counterparts would be rewarded for, the lawsuit claims.

Attorney Eve Cervantez of Altshuler Berzon, one of the firms representing the women, said that Apple's practices perpetuate and widen existing gender pay gaps.

“This is a no-win situation for female employees at Apple,” Cervantez said in a statement.

Apple is being charged with violating the California Equal Pay Act, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the California Unfair Competition Law.

The lawsuit not only wants Apple to take action to change its discriminatory pay practices, it is seeking monetary relief in the form of compensation due and liquidated damages, plus interest.

As part of the suit, Jong also charges she was “sexually harassed by a co-worker, forced to work in a hostile work environment next to that co-worker, and denied accommodations to be transferred to other teams.

In response to the suit, Apple put out a statement Thursday stating the company is committed to inclusion and pay equality.

"Since 2017, Apple has achieved and maintained gender pay equity and every year we partner with an independent third-party expert to examine each team member’s total compensation and make adjustments, where necessary, to ensure that we maintain pay equity," Apple said.

Wage gap still exists

A 2023 WebSummit end-of-year report on gender inequality in tech reveals bias against women continues to be an issue within the workplace – and the technology industry as a whole.

A US Department of Labor blog on the gender wage gap from March 2023 reveals that on average women working full-time in the exact same position are paid 83.7% of what men are paid. The inequity is even greater for Black and Hispanic women.

Female Software Engineer
Female Software Engineer Writing Code at start-up tech firm. Image by Gorodenkoff | Shutterstock

The US labor report also noted that age or level of education had no effect on the wage gap both short and long term.

About 38% of Apple employees (out of roughly 164,000) are women according to statistics from 2022, a percentage similar to the US tech industry overall, a 2024 WomenTech Network trends report showed.

Additionally, just over a quarter of those 38% of women are in managerial or technical roles, according to an Apple diversity report from the same year.

The lawsuit is open to any women employed by Apple in California in its Engineering, Marketing, or AppleCare divisions any time after June 13th, 2020, the firm stated in the release announcing the class action Thursday.

The three firms representing the class action plaintiffs, Altshuler Berzon, Outten & Golden, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, have brokered massive settlements in other sex bias cases, including a $215 million deal with Goldman Sachs last year and a $175 million settlement with Sterling Jewelers in 2022, reported Reuters.

Earlier this week, four more states joined the US Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit against Apple Inc., accusing the behemoth of a smartphone market monopoly. The number of state attorney’s offices that have now teamed up on the legal action stands at 20.