(Bloomberg) – Apple Inc. Comments by U.S. executives and policies imposed on employees have been deemed illegal by prosecutors from the US National Labor Relations Board, who say they violate workers' rights.
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Spokeswoman Kayla Bledsoe said Monday that the NLRB's Office of General Counsel determined that “various work rules, handbook rules and privacy rules” imposed by the tech giant “interfere with employees, restraint or coercion”.
In addition, she said, the agency “found merit in alleging statements and conduct by Apple — including high-level executives — also violated the National Labor Relations Act.” Until Apple settles, the board's regional director will issue a complaint against the Cupertino, California-based company, Bledsoe said in an email.
The agency's investigation stems from cases brought in 2021 by former employees Ashley Jovic and Cher Scarlett. Scarlett accused the company of maintaining work rules that “prohibit employees from discussing wages, hours, or other terms or conditions of employment.” Gjovik's filing alleged that an email Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook pledged to punish the leakers, as well as a set of policies in Apple's employee handbook, violated federal law.
Jovic cited policies prohibiting employees from disclosing “business information”, speaking to reporters, disclosing co-workers' compensation or posting rude tweets.
In an email to all his employees sent in September 2021, Cook wrote that “people who leak classified information don't belong here.” Cook's message said that Apple was “doing everything in its power to identify the leakers” and that it “does not tolerate the disclosure of confidential information, whether it's product IP or confidential meeting details”. “
His email followed media reports last week about a companywide internal meeting in which management asked questions about topics such as pay equity and Texas' anti-abortion law.
Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday on the NLRB's finding.
In a hearing earlier this month, company attorney Jason Stanevich said, “Apple promotes an open and inclusive work environment by allowing employees to not only, but also express their views on a wide range of issues ranging from social justice topics to pay. But are encouraged to share their feelings and thoughts. Equality for anything else they feel is an important cause to be promoted in the workplace.”
US labor law protects the rights of workers to communicate with each other and engage in collective action regarding workplace issues. Complaints issued by NLRB prosecutors are reviewed by administrative law judges, whose decisions can be appealed to members of the Labor Board in Washington and from there to federal court. The agency does not have the ability to impose punitive damages or hold executives personally liable for violations, but can order companies to change workplace policies.
Apple, the world's most valuable company, has faced an unusual wave of public discontent in recent years amid unprecedented organizing campaigns by its white-collar workers as well as retail workers who last year voted to unionize in Maryland and Oklahoma. did. NLRB prosecutors have also found merit in claims in recent months that Apple illegally forced workers at its retail stores in Atlanta and New York City, where some workers are seeking to unionize. The company has denied wrongdoing.
Gojovic, a senior engineering program manager, was fired by Apple in September 2021 after filing complaints with multiple state and federal agencies. In documents shared by Gjovik, Apple claimed that he was terminated for violating policies such as disclosure of confidential product information.
Jovic has said that his disclosures were legally protected and that he was fired in retaliation for his earlier complaints, which allege that – after voicing fears about workplace health hazards – he was harassed, humiliated, and told not to tell co-workers about their concerns.
“My hope is that the first time Apple is told by the government that this culture of secrecy is not okay,” Gjovic said Monday. “I also hope it sends shockwaves through other corporations that even Apple can be held accountable.”
(Updated with additional NLRB comment starting in second paragraph)
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