US labor board investigating Apple employee complaints, as doubts cast on one

A US labor board is investigating two Apple employee complaints, one of which was filed by Ashley Gjøvik, a senior engineering program manager who has made a series of public allegations against the company.

However, doubts have been expressed about some of Gjøvik’s claims, including evidence that appears to disprove one of them …

Background

The controversy began when Gjøvik implied that Apple had responded to her allegations of sexism by placing her on administrative leave. While she didn’t specifically state that this was imposed by the company against her will, this was the very clear implication of her phrasing: that Apple was penalizing a whistle-blower rather than the offender.

So, following raising concerns to #Apple about #sexism, #hostileworkenvironment, & #unsafeworkconditions, I’m now on indefinite paid administrative leave per #Apple employee relations, while they investigate my concerns. This seems to include me not using Apple’s internal Slack.

A former Apple employee revealed that it was in fact Gjøvik herself who had requested to be placed on paid leave. Apple simply agreed to her request.

It should be noted that Shantini herself left the company over its remote working policy, so has no incentive to defend Apple – indeed, she could well be feeling aggrieved.

There was a great deal of subtweeting going on by various other current and former employees on this topic. For example, when some questioned how these screengrabs had come to be made public, Apple’s Authentication Experience head Ricky Mondello tweeted this:

The supporting evidence Gjøvik provided for her sexism allegations also appeared relatively weak. She tweeted a screengrab of positive iMessage feedback from a manager.

Feedback on the presentation today – I was specifically looking for tone. You did great. I didn’t hear you going up an octave at the end of your statements. Came across as much more authoritative. It’s super refreshing to provide feedback and then see you attempt to act upon it. Thank you!

While it is well known that some male managers hold sexist attitudes about differences in tone between men and women, the feedback here would seem to apply to an employee of either gender. Someone who has a questioning tone at the end of their statements will indeed tend to sound unsure of themselves, and a number of Twitter users noted that this was extremely common feedback given to both men and women during public speaking training.

I have received the same exact feedback in the past, as a male, from a female. I can relate to the feedback 100%.

Gjøvik subsequently gave an interview to The Verge, which made the whole dispute as public as could be. This was followed by a webpage on which she posted a mass of her tweets on the topic, including a lengthy list of the offences she believed her managers had committed (with some redactions):

  • Assault & Battery
  • Hostile Work Environment
  • Quid Pro Quo Bribe
  • Hostile Work Environment
  • Retaliation & Constructive Termination #1
  • Retaliation and Constructive Termination #2
  • Negligence; Failure to Report Work Place Injuries
  • Sexual Assault Concerns
  • Sexual Discrimination
  • Workplace Safety on
  • Sexist Culture in
  • Disability Discrimination & FMLA Violation
  • Hostile Work Environment
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Hostile Work Environment
  • Failure to Address Hostile Work Environment
  • Sexual Comments
  • Hostile Work Environment
  • ADA Violations & Whistleblowing
  • Retaliation, lIED, Constructive Termination #3
  • Workers Compensation
  • Workplace Safety Concerns
  • Product Defect Whistleblowing
  • Privacy Whistleblowing
  • Voting Rights Advocacy
  • Corruption Whistleblowing
  • Workplace Safety Whistleblowing & Other Advocacy

Investigation of Apple employee complaints

Reuters reports that Gjøvik and another Apple employee have filed complaints with the US National Labor Relations Board.

A U.S. national labor agency is investigating two charges against tech giant Apple Inc (AAPL.O) filed by employees, records on its website show, amid a wave of worker activism at a company known for its secretive culture.

The charges, filed on Aug. 26 and Sept. 1, are being reviewed by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board’s office in Oakland, California. The agency declined to comment.

“We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised,” Apple, which is based in Cupertino, California, said in a statement that cited employee privacy in declining to discuss specifics.

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

A separate complaint was filed by Apple engineer Cher Scarlett, who carried out an internal survey to determine whether there was a pay equity problem within the company. Around 2,000 male and female employees shared their seniority and salary. Analysis of the results showed a 6% disparity in male and female pay. Apple responded by banning such surveys, which didn’t exactly help to allay concerns of unequal pay.

The Sept. 1 charge 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 provided to Reuters, say Apple “engaged in coercive and suppressive activity that has enabled abuse and harassment of organizers of protected concerted activity.”

The reason many have opted to subtweet rather than respond directly is a fear that any expression of doubt about one individual may be misinterpreted as dismissing legitimate reports of sexism. To be clear on my own position, I have absolutely no doubt that sexism occurs within Apple as it does within any large organization. I don’t have the inside view necessary to hold an opinion on the seriousness with which the company attempts to correct these problems, but I do feel that responding to a survey which reveals pay disparity by banning such surveys is as dumb a response as a company could possibly make.

Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters

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