Some Apple shareholders want a civil rights audit

The tech giant has faced accusations of allowing a hostile work environment to grow under its majority white and male leadership.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read
Apple's spaceship headquarters

Apple's headquarters. The company faces unprecedented pressure and scrutiny over its work culture.


Apple shareholders will likely vote next year year on a proposal tied to online criticism the company has faced from some of its employees, calling for a civil rights audit after victims detailed stories of harassment and abuse at the company. It also comes after the US National Labor Relations Board began investigations into complaints filed by two former employees

The proposal, earlier reported by MarketWatch, seeks to draw attention to Apple's employee base, which is 47% white and 66% male, according to the company's public data. The shareholders told MarketWatch that despite Apple's public commitments to support racial justice, its progress diversifying its own ranks has been slow.

"It is unclear how Apple plans to address racial inequality in its workforce," the proposal, shared with MarketWatch, says. "Apple currently has no Hispanics and only one Black member on its executive team."

SOC Investment Group, which reported owning 22 million shares of Apple stock earlier this year, worked on the proposal with Trillium Asset Management, which earlier reported owning more than 1 million shares of Apple. The Service Employees International Union was also reportedly involved. The proposal is expected to be voted on during Apple's 2022 shareholder meeting; last year's meeting occurred in February

Apple declined to comment. Representatives from SOC, Trillium and the SEIU didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The move is the latest in a series of public efforts to draw attention to Apple's corporate culture at a time of intense scrutiny. Employees have publicly accused the tech giant of allowing a hostile work environment to develop in parts of the company. Apple's ultra-secretive work culture, they say, is unintentionally adding to this problem by discouraging people from speaking up about these issues.

Apple isn't the only company facing these types of questions. Current and former employees at Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft and Pinterest have also raised concerns, speaking out on a range of issues, including workplace harassment.

What's notable about Apple is how unusual it is for its workers to publicly criticize the company. Earlier this year, a group of employees published an open letter to CEO Tim Cook and the company's senior leadership, asking the tech giant to improve how it treats its 160,000 employees and "fulfill its promise of inclusion, diversity and equity."

In the letter, the group asked for increased privacy over personal information; transparent and fair compensation; an audit of all relationships with other companies; increased accountability across leadership and human resource teams; and a process for sharing group concerns. The letter also asks for a reinvestigation of all reports of "racism, discrimination, abuse, harassment, concerted activity suppression and retaliation" at Apple.