'This Culture Of Secrecy Is Not Okay': Former Apple Employee Celebrates NLRB Decision That It Violated Worker Rights

Ashley Gjøvik complained Tim Cook violated worker rights by telling employees not to speak to the media.

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By Gabrielle Bienasz

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Apple store in New York in June 2020.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials said Monday that a complaint Apple violated laws related to employee rights has merit, according to Bloomberg.

The NLRB oversees labor disputes and complaints in the U.S. After a complaint over unfair labor practices is filed, it is investigated by area attorneys and examiners. If they find "probable merit," then the company can either settle the issue, or it will receive a formal complaint from an NLRB regional director.

Now that NLRB officials have found merit, Apple will receive a complaint, an NLRB spokesperson told Bloomberg.

It's not the company's first tussle with the board of late: The NLRB found merit in complaints related to the company's anti-unionization efforts in Atlanta in December, per Quartz.

This particular case originates with Ashley Gjøvik and another former employee and their right to speak out publicly about workplace issues.

Gjøvik started at Apple in software engineering in 2015, according to her website. She is now outspoken about issues she had with the company and has filed complaints with the NLRB and other government agencies.

As part of this complaint, she gave the NLRB company files, per TechCrunch. These included an email from CEO Tim Cook that issued a harsh warning about speaking to the media after a reporter tweeted a detailed summary of an Apple meeting.

"I want to reassure you that we are doing everything in our power to identify those who leaked. As you know, we do not tolerate disclosures of confidential information, whether it's product IP or the details of a confidential meeting," Cook wrote in the memo, per the outlet.

"We know that the leakers constitute a small number of people. We also know that people who leak confidential information do not belong here," Cook wrote.

Workers have a protected right to share information about job conditions on social media, but the rules are slightly murkier when it comes to their right to speak to journalists.

Another former employee, Cher Scarlett, said the company had rules that "prohibit employees from discussing wages, hours or other terms or conditions of employment," which was also included in this investigation, per Bloomberg.

Apple's policies around these issues "tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their right to protected concerted activity," the NLRB spokesperson said, per TechCrunch.

The NLRB has not released a decision on Gjøvik's complaint that she was unlawfully terminated in retaliation for speaking out about the company, according to TechCrunch.

Gjøvik discussed her feelings about the decision Monday, per Bloomberg.

"My hope is that for the first time Apple is told by the government that this culture of secrecy is not okay... I also hope that this sends shockwaves through other corporations that even Apple can be held accountable," she said.

Gabrielle Bienasz

Entrepreneur Staff

Gabrielle Bienasz is a staff writer at Entrepreneur. She previously worked at Insider and Inc. Magazine. 

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