Concluding a complaint filed by Apple’s former employee Ashley Gjovik in 2021, the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) prosecutors have found that the tech giant’s CEO Tim Cook and policies violate labor laws by going after workers who leaked confidential information to reporters.
The agency’s spokesperson Kayla Blado told Bloomberg that the finding is based on Cook’s email which pledged to punish leakers and the company’s policies in its employee handbook which restrict workers “from disclosing “business information,” talking to reporters, revealing co-workers’ compensation or posting impolite tweets.”
NLRB tells Apple to settle to avoid a complaint
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple’s corporate staff switched to remote work from March 2020 till early 2022. Against the company’s culture of secrecy, accurate details of multiple products were leaked online before their launch during that time.
Furthermore, confidential information from internal discussions and employee issues at the company were also leaked to reporters like remote work policy, pay equity, harassment, workplace culture, and others.
To share his frustration and contain the situation, CEO Tim Cook sent out an email to employees which stated:
I’m writing today because I’ve heard from so many of you were incredibly frustrated to see the contents of the meeting leak to reporters. This comes after a product launch in which most of the details of our announcements were also leaked to the press.
I want you to know that I share your frustration. These opportunities to connect as a team are really important. But they only work if we can trust that the content will stay within Apple.
I want to reassure you that we are doing everything in our power to identify those who leaked. As you know, we do not tolerate disclosures of confidential information, whether it’s product IP or the details of a confidential meeting. We know that the leakers constitute a small number of people. We also know that people who leak confidential information do not belong here.
NLRB found Cook’s statements in violation of the National Labor Relations Act and wants the company to settle the matter with the agency to avoid a complaint by the board’s regional director.
Although the agency does not hold the power to impose fines or disciplinary actions, it can order the companies to change their policies. The report states:
US labor law protects workers’ rights to communicate with one another and engage in collective action about workplace issues. Complaints issued by NLRB prosecutors are reviewed by administrative law judges,
whose rulings can be appealed to labor board members in Washington — and, from there, to federal court. The agency lacks the ability to impose punitive damages or hold executives personally liable for violations, but can order companies to change workplace policies.
Previously, NLRB also found that Apple’s anti-union tactics in Atlanta like holding captive meetings were “coercive and illegal” and its Atlanta regional director said to issue a complaint if the tech giant did not settle.