Apple changes ex-employees' titles to 'Associate' despite actual jobs

A new complaint filed with the SEC details how the company can discourage high-skilled workers from finding employment elsewhere.

CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 28: An aerial view of Apple Park is seen in Cupertino, California, United St...
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If you worked for Apple in the past, you are an “associate” no matter your actual, former job title. While this might be of little consequence to many who move on to new opportunities, for quite a few it has proven to be an incredibly frustrating, even career-stymying company tactic — also, potentially illegal.

As The Washington Post first reported yesterday, a new complaint filed with the Security and Exchange Commission alleges that Apple’s longstanding “Associate Retcon” policy prevented at least one employee from obtaining a new job, as it caused a delay in the hiring process due to perceived discrepancies in the applicant’s resumé.

“Doing this severely limits the ability for ex-Apple employees to verify past employment, especially if they left on bad terms. It essentially forces us to stay in Apple’s good graces for those references as verification,” former Apple worker, Janneke Parrish, told The Post.

Associates as far as the eye can see!SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

iPetty — Apple, for its part, doesn’t offer any clear answers as to why it continues to re-designate the job titles of former employees. Even if the strategy was to obscure internal plans for competitors, it still does such a disservice to workers that it could easily be seen as interfering with “employees’ reasonable future economic interests,” as one employment law attorney explained to The Post.

More realistically, the “Associate” ploy probably boils down to exactly what it seems at face value: Apple isn’t fond of losing talent to competitors, and is willing to discourage it however they can to ensure employees stick around as long as possible. When workers do leave, it has to be under amiable circumstances, or else the job verification issue could become a serious problem for future employment. Regardless of reason or outcome, it definitely sounds like the practice needs investigation and reform — just add it to the list of issues for Apple.