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Apple Promises Change to 'Training and Processes' After Series of HR Complaints

More than a dozen women who worked for the iPhone maker during the past two decades have publicly shared stories of harassment and abuse, and of poor response from HR.

A crowd of people gathers in Apple's spaceship building
Apple is the most highly valued company in the world. But it's still got problems.
Gabriel Sama/CNET

Apple said in a statement published Thursday that it didn't correctly handle a series of harassment and misconduct claims brought by more than a dozen current and former employees, and it promised it would change how the company works.

"There are some accounts raised that do not reflect our intentions or our policies and we should have handled them differently," Apple said in a statement to the Financial Times. 

The statement came in response to a story by the publication highlighting some of the harassment claims and the company's poor response. Some of the women behind the claims said Apple's HR teams didn't investigate accusations thoroughly enough and appeared to seek pretexts under which to fire or lay off the people making claims. The FT described the women as alleging that Apple had demonstrated "apathy in the face of misconduct claims."

Apple's statement didn't refer to specific cases from the FT story, though it did acknowledge it had fallen short in some of the exchanges the story highlighted. "As a result," the company said, "we will make changes to our training and processes." Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for additional details about those planned changes.

The public admission by Apple is a rare moment when the typically secretive Silicon Valley giant has discussed internal staff issues. Over the past couple of years, dozens of employees have increasingly spoken out on social media, on whistleblower websites and in news stories about what they say are problems with Apple's culture. Some of them have shared stories of the company allegedly mishandling egregious misconduct, including harassment and assault. The company has previously said it takes these issues seriously, but it's declined to discuss specifics, citing employee confidentiality.

Read more: Apple's under unprecedented pressure as it prepares iPhone 13 launch

One story highlighted by the Financial Times involved a male colleague taking advantage of a female employee after a platonic night out. In another, an employee said she was reprimanded for her reaction to a poor response from Apple HR after she'd filed a complaint. Eight of the 15 female Apple employees the FT spoke with said they were retaliated against, and seven said they found HR to be "disappointing or counterproductive."

Though the number of complaints is small considering Apple's population of more than 165,000 employees worldwide, it highlights how the company has struggled to follow through on its promises of promoting women and stamping out bad behavior. In response, a growing group of hundreds of employees has begun pushing back under the banners of "Apple Together" and #AppleToo.

"We have some very bad actors taking advantage to prey on vulnerable people," one anonymous employee wrote in a post on the #AppleToo website. "We need change. We need it now."