Apple pays $25M to settle employment discrimination case

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has secured a $25 million landmark agreement with Apple Inc for discriminating against potential employees based on their citizenship status.

Apple is accused of illegally discriminating against US citizens and non-US citizens allowed to work in the United States indefinitely when recruiting workers for jobs under the federal employment Permanent Labor Certification Program, or PERM.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, who settled the case against Apple Thursday, said Apple’s discriminatory recruiting practices often deterred protected workers from applying for positions that Apple “preferred” to fill themselves instead of with PERM applicants.

PERM allows employers to sponsor workers for lawful permanent resident status in the US after completing recruitment and meeting other program requirements, according to the DOJ.

The DOJ investigation found Apple engaged in a number of discriminatory hiring practices involving PERM beneficiaries.

Specifically, the DOJ said Apple did not advertise PERM positions on its external job website, even though the tech company would post other job positions on the same site.

Apple also made the PERM applicants submit paper application through the mail, even though all other job positions allowed online submissions.

In some cases, Apple had even disqualified its own employees applying for the PERM positions via electronic submissions.

“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.

The questionable recruitment procedures “nearly always resulted in few or no applications to PERM positions from applicants whose permission to work does not expire,” the DOJ said.

Individuals who were unlawfully discriminated against included prejudiced US citizens, US nationals, lawful permanent residents, and those granted asylum or refugee status whose permission to work in the US did not expire.

The $25M breakdown

As part of the $25M settlement, Apple will pay $6.75M in civil penalties and another $18.25M to create a backpay fund for eligible victims.

The agreement will also force Apple to change up its PERM recruitment practices to make sure it “more closely matches the company’s standard recruitment practices,” the DOJ said.

The case against Apple was filed back in February 2019.

It is considered the largest reward recovered by the Justice department under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality act (INA).

It's also not the first case involving tech firms and alleged employee discrimination practices.

In August, the DOJ filed suit against Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellite and rocket technology company for discriminatory hiring practices also based on the potential workers’ citizenship status.

The department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights office accused SpaceX of routinely refusing to hire migrants for jobs – regardless of qualifications – and instead based hiring decisions on the candidate’s immigration status, in violation of US federal law.

That case is still ongoing.

The PERM program is run by the US Department of Labor and the US Department Homeland Security.

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