Wafer curvature was used to study the thermal–mechanical behavior of 1-μm Cu thin films capped with a 100-nm-thick Si3N4 layer. These films were grown with either a Ta or a Si3N4 underlayer. Films on Si3N4 that were exposed to oxygen at the film/capping layer interface or at the center of the copper layer exhibited Bauschinger-like yielding at low stress. Stacks deposited under continuous vacuum, with a Ta underlayer, with carbon exposure at the upper surface of the copper film, or with oxygen exposure of only the underlayer did not demonstrate the anomalous yielding. Preferential diffusion of oxygen into copper grain boundaries or interfaces is the likely cause of the early yield behavior. Possible mechanisms include an increase in interface adhesion due to the presence of oxygen in solution and diffusion-induced dislocation glide as an additional driving force for dislocation motion at low applied stress.