US Agency Investigates Two Complaints From Apple Staff

A rare glimpse into the internal workings at Apple has been offered this week, after two complaints against the iPad maker were made public.

Reuters reported that the US National Labor Relations Board’s office in Oakland, California, is investigating after two complaints were filed against Apple in the space of two weeks.

Very little is known about the internal workings at Apple, as the firm is well known for keeping a tight lid on its upcoming projects and products with the media and outside world.

Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino

Staff pushback

The first sign of staff dissension came in June this year, when an internal letter from Apple staff demanded more flexibility from the firm over returning to work in the office.

The letter also stated Apple’s return to work policy had “already forced some of our colleagues to quit”.

Apple subsequently told its staff that they will not need to return to the office until January 2022 at the earliest, because of ongoing infections caused by the Delta variant in the US.

Now Reuters has reported on two complaints from Apple staff members, filed on 26 August and 1 September, against the firm.

The US National Labor Relations Board is reviewing the complaints, and the agency declined to comment on the matter to Reuters.

“We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised,” Apple was quoted as saying in a statement, that cited employee privacy in declining to discuss specifics.

Staff complaints

However Reuters was able to speak to both women who filed their complaints and find out their reasons.

Ashley Gjovik, a senior engineering program manager at Apple, told Reuters that she filed the 26 August charge, which cites harassment by a manager, reduction of responsibilities and increases in unfavorable work, among other complaints.

The 1 September charge meanwhile was filed by Cher Scarlett, an Apple software engineer who said the company repeatedly stopped discussions of pay among employees.

The documents she sent the agency, which she also provided to Reuters, say Apple “engaged in coercive and suppressive activity that has enabled abuse and harassment of organisers of protected concerted activity.”

Under US law, staff are allowed to openly discuss certain topics, such as working conditions.

The labor relations agency investigates all charges it receives, and launches a prosecution against the employer if merited.

In a letter accompanying her NLRB charge, Scarlett reportedly wrote that Apple employees began a pay equity survey in April, but the company blocked them, citing privacy concerns.

It also halted subsequent surveys, including one that aimed to address the privacy issues, Scarlett added.

In late August, Apple denied employees’ request to create a Slack channel to discuss pay equity, which Scarlett told Reuters was “the last straw” that led her to file the complaint.

Gjovik meanwhile told Reuters that after Apple started investigating her complaints, as well as accusations of sexism, her managers began re-assigning her work to colleagues and loading her up with undesirable tasks.

The company put her on paid administrative leave in early August. She told Reuters that Apple had not finished its investigation.

Gjovik said she felt encouraged after seeing more employees speaking out about the company’s culture in recent weeks.

“The biggest obstacle for making progress at Apple is the culture of secrecy and alienation,” she said.

Reuters reported that in addition to these complaints, staff at Apple have reportedly engaged in a heated debate on the messaging platform Slack about Apple’s move to scan US customer phones and computers for child sex abuse images.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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