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Apple just banned a pay equity Slack channel but lets fun dogs channel lie

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Apple has barred employees from creating a Slack channel to discuss pay equity. A member of the employee relations team, Apple’s version of HR, said that while the topic was “aligned with Apple’s commitment to pay equity,” it did not meet the company’s Slack Terms of Use.

“Slack channels are provided to conduct Apple business and must advance the work, deliverables, or mission of Apple departments and teams,” the employee relations representative told employees.

The company’s rules for the in-office chat app say that “Slack channels for activities and hobbies not recognized as Apple Employee clubs or Diversity Network Associations (DNAs) aren’t permitted and shouldn’t be created.”

But that rule has not been evenly enforced. Currently, Apple employees have popular Slack channels to discuss #fun-dogs (more than 5,000 members), #gaming (more than 3,000 members), and #dad-jokes (more than 2,000 members). On August 18th, the company approved a channel called #community-foosball. The cat and dog channels are not part of official clubs, and all of these channels were specifically created to talk about non-work activities.

Employment attorney Vincent P. White says that invoking the Slack terms may simply be an excuse to block discussions of workplace pay disparities since doing so outright would violate labor law. “Discussing pay equity is a protected activity under federal, state, and local law,” says White. “Everyone agrees on that. For them to try and impair employees’ ability to discuss pay equity and diversity in the workplace is a clear cut act of retaliation.”

Pay equity has been a hot topic among Apple employees over the past few months. The company has shut down multiple employee surveys aimed at gathering data on how much workers make. One survey, started by Apple engineer Cher Scarlett, has seemingly been allowed to stay up. An early analysis of the results showed a 6 percent wage gap between the salaries of men and women who participated.

Now, organizers want to create a space for employees to discuss pay issues. While Apple previously said it did not have a pay equity problem, employees are suspicious. The company’s recent behavior, including shutting down pay surveys and now banning a pay equity Slack channel, has only exacerbated those concerns.

“It sure is very convenient for Apple that these Terms of Use that they wrote are extremely useful for crushing free and open communication among employees,” one source says.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.

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