An Apple employee who was fired last month after raising concerns about the company’s treatment of its workers submitted allegations to the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday.
Janneke Parrish, who was a product manager on Apple Maps in Austin, Texas, helped launch #AppleToo, a movement aimed at improving working conditions at the company. While the company told her she was fired for deleting apps and files from a company phone during a company investigation, she thinks it’s because of her activism.
Parrish is at least the third corporate Apple employee to file an NLRB “charge,” or an allegation of a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, against the company in recent months, a sign that the iPhone maker is facing increasing scrutiny over its labor practices. If the NLRB finds merit in Parrish’s charge, the agency can file a complaint and seek remedies.
“Apple Inc. terminated Parrish’s employment ... in attempt to nip-in-the-bud the successful organizing campaign that Parrish and her coworkers established to address and redress employees’ workplace concerns,” Parrish wrote in the charge.
Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock has previously said the company has “always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace.” He said the company doesn’t discuss specific employee matters out of respect for privacy. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Big technology companies are facing a wave of employee activism that aims to improve diversity and reduce discrimination inside the ever-growing and increasingly dominant behemoths. More than 20,000 Google employees staged a walkout to protest sexual misconduct and inequality in 2018, and last year Black women at Pinterest accused the company of discrimination and retaliation. Amazon settled a wrongful termination suit in September against two women it fired after they publicly criticized the company’s climate policies. Apple, known for its secretive nature and highly polished public image, is unaccustomed to organized efforts to shine a light on its management practices.
Over the summer, more than 500 employees — many working at Apple’s more than 500 global retail stores — have submitted stories via #AppleToo that allege the company has not done enough to stop “racism, sexism, discrimination, retaliation, bullying, sexual and other forms of harassment” inside its walls.
Among the Apple employees raising concerns is Cher Scarlett, who organized an employee wage survey to shine a light on alleged pay discrepancies affecting underrepresented groups. Scarlett, who has also filed an NLRB charge, is currently on leave from the company.
Parrish said in an interview last month with The Washington Post that she was under investigation by Apple’s global security division, which told her she was under investigation for leaking details about Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s Sept. 18 virtual Town Hall meeting, where he addressed allegations of workplace misconduct at the company in front of all employees.
Parrish said she did not leak information about the Town Hall, and said she believes she was targeted because of her involvement with #AppleToo.
Shortly after Parrish was questioned over videoconference, she said a courier showed up to her Austin-area home to collect her company-owned iPhone and laptop. Parrish said she deleted some apps and files before her devices were collected by the courier, including the augmented reality game “Pokémon Go” and Google Drive, because those apps contained personal information. She said Apple fired her for deleting those apps.
Parrish says she also owns a personal smartphone that Apple did not collect as part of its investigation. Her NLRB charge will be investigated by one of the agency’s regional offices.
According to the NLRB, there are about 20,000 to 30,000 charges filed each year and most of those cases settle. The NLRB does not penalize companies, but instead imposes “remedies” that include forcing the company to reinstate the employee that filed the charge. The NLRB can also choose to investigate further after a charge is filed and expand the scope of the initial allegations.
According to the NLRB’s website, there have been seven charges filed against the company this year. The details of the complaints have not been made public.