Report claims ‘woke’ Apple caught lying to SEC, busted trying to silence activist employees, forcing them to sign NDAs

CUPERTINO, CA — One of the largest companies that champions various social justice issues has allegedly been caught trying to prevent activist employees from badmouthing it through the use of a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).

A former Apple Inc. employee turned whistleblower, Cher Scarlett, revealed that the company tried to censor resigning or fired employees by pressuring them to sign an NDA, according to a report by Business Insider.

In addition, the NDA allegedly contained a fabricated “employee” statement, which was actually written by Apple’s lawyers.

When Scarlett decided to leave the company earlier this month, Apple’s lawyers wanted her to sign a separation agreement.

Calling the NDA “ridiculous,” Scarlett claimed she was only allowed to state: “After 18 months at Apple, I’ve decided it is time to move on and pursue other opportunities.”

Scarlett refused to sign the NDA and told Business Insider:

“I was shocked. In my mind, I should be able to say whatever I want as long as I’m not defaming Apple.”

At Apple, Scarlett had worked as an engineer who spent months working to improve pay equity at the company.

Slate reported that she was known for her work with #AppleToo, an employee activist movement that seeks to collect and publicize concerns about pay equity, harassment, and other issues at the company.

As a result of her efforts, she told Business Insider that she was harassed by colleagues and that the company attempted to intimidate her.

Scarlett told Slate why she left Apple:

“I didn’t feel like I could feasibly continue to work and also advocate for others publicly. I felt like there was no place for me there.”

Scarlett revealed that the use of the NDA blatantly conflicted with recent statements Apple made to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to the report, Apple emailed a letter to the SEC on Oct. 18 and made several “startling statements.”

On page 2 of the letter emailed to the SEC, the company denied using “concealment clauses”:

“Apple is deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. Apple does not limit employees’ and contractors’ ability to speak freely about harassment, discrimination, and other unlawful acts in the workplace.

“Instead, Apple supports the rights of its employees and contractors to speak freely about these matters, and it is the Company’s policy that employees and contractors should not be prohibited from doing so.

“Given the foregoing, Apple has already substantially implemented the underlying concerns and essential objectives of the proposal – to disclose the risks of its use of concealment clauses – because the Company’s policy is to not use such clauses.

“Apple communicates this through its Business Conduct Policy, which is available on the Company’s public website for anyone, including shareholders, to review.

“Apple’s Business Conduct Policy sets out Apple’s expectations regarding confidentiality of unreleased products and non-public business information and provides that ‘nothing in this Policy should be interpreted as being restrictive of your right to speak freely about your wages, hours, or working conditions.’”

Yet Business Insider obtained a copy of Scarlett’s whistleblower complaint to the SEC and noted:

“In responding to a shareholder proposal for Apple to assess potential risk associated with using NDAs ‘in the context of harassment, discrimination, and other unlawful acts,’ Apple told the SEC that its ‘policy is to not use such clauses.’

“As a result, attorneys for Apple argued the company had already addressed the concerns of activist shareholders.

“Citing her own experience receiving NDAs from Apple, Scarlett filed a whistleblower complaint with the SEC on October 25.

“The complaint, which Insider has reviewed, details what Scarlett says are ‘false statements or misleading statements’ by Apple to the agency.

“Scarlett included a copy of the settlement agreement Apple offered her in her SEC complaint, describing how the company included a ‘statement I was allowed to say about my leaving the company being a personal decision, rather than fleeing a hostile work environment after attempting to exercise my rights and help others organize’ under federal labor laws.”

Scarlett revealed she had shared a copy of the NDA that Apple wanted her to sign with Nia Impact Capital.

Upon seeing Apple’s NDA, Nia Impact Capital sought to force a shareholder vote around transparency on its use, according to the report:

“Nia informed the SEC that it had ‘received information, confidentially provided, that Apple has sought to use concealment clauses in the context of discrimination, harassment, and other workplace labor violation claims.’”

Scarlett explained her actions to Business Insider:

“I knew the SEC filing was a lie … I wanted a way to be able to hold them accountable to that.”

Nia CEO Kristin Hull said her company is seeking further review from the SEC on its shareholder proposal, including a review of arbitration cases at Apple and HR complaints:

“This mess with the SEC doesn’t make any sense.”

However, Hull told Business Insider that while her office has had cordial contact with Apple representatives in recent weeks over this issue, she said that Scarlett’s revelations show that efforts to silence former employees at the company are “absolutely happening.”

Apple did not respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.

Scarlett is not the only person who has made waves at Apple.

Slate reported that two other workplace activists at Apple are now gone:

“Scarlett was the last publicly known leader of the months-old movement still at Apple.

“While Scarlett left voluntarily, two other activist employees did not.

“Fellow #AppleToo leader Janneke Parrish, who worked on Apple Maps as a program manager, was fired in October, and former senior engineering program manager Ashley Gjøvik, an activist who was not part of #AppleToo, was fired in September.

“Both were terminated over the course of leak investigations.”

According to Slate’s report, Parrish filed a complaint against Apple to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in early November.

Parrish, who helped Scarlett to found the #AppleToo movement, alleged her termination was an act of retaliation for her activism and said she had also been subject to other forms of retaliation while still at the company. She told Slate:

“There was a degree of isolation where my management became more reluctant to give me assignments or to speak to me.

“It’s more subtle, but it’s very much still isolation and still has a chilling effect, saying that if you continue down this path, there are repercussions for your career here.”

Parrish claimed that Human Resources had requested several meetings with her in which they collected more information about her organizing and tried to minimize the concerns that the #AppleToo movement was raising.

According to Slate, Apple’s investigators demanded that Parrish hand over her work devices, which she did, but not before deleting some personal data like contact information from political canvassing and her Robinhood investor app.

Slate’s report suggested that Apple found a way to fire her:

“(Apple reportedly encourages, and at times pretty much requires, employees to merge their personal accounts and activities with devices they use for work.) Apple accused Parrish of interfering with the investigation by deleting information, and fired her.”

Likewise, Gjøvik was fired from Apple in September. While she wasn’t associated with #AppleToo, she said her activism ran “in parallel” with the movement.

Slate reported Gjøvik, who worked at Apple for more than six years, began raising concerns internally about workplace safety and sexism at the company in March and eventually began speaking to the press.

Gjøvik told Slate she was singled out at work as a result of her advocacy:

“I heard from my old team that they were having staff meetings talking about the ‘Ashley issue.’”

Gjøvik also claimed that her managers were unreasonably short with her and had instructed her not to talk to co-workers about her concerns.

Slate reported that Apple once again seemingly found a convenient way to fire an employee:

“In early September, Gjøvik received an email from Apple requesting a meeting for an intellectual property investigation.

“She attempted to negotiate, stipulating that she would be willing as long as there was a written record of the discussion.

“Apple interpreted her request as a rejection of the meeting and subsequently fired her for failing to cooperate, without ever explicitly telling her what she was suspected of leaking.”

Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock told Slate:

“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace.

“We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”

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Author: Anita Job


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