Apple has illegally imposed rules on its employees that prohibit them from discussing their wages and engaging in other protected activity, according to investigators at the National Labor Relations Board.
The findings by NLRB agents determined that “various work rules, handbook rules, and confidentiality rules at Apple” are unlawful because they “reasonably tend to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees” who attempt to assert their labor rights, NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado told CNN Tuesday.
The probe involved several allegations dating to 2021, Blado said, some of which accused Apple of interfering with employee attempts to collect salary data and of “suppressive activity that has enabled abuse and harassment of organizers.” One of the charges claimed Apple had maintained “work rules that prohibit employees from discussing wages, hours, or other terms or conditions of employment.”
Apple declined to comment. The agency findings were first reported by Bloomberg.
The determinations could put pressure on Apple to settle the charges or risk facing a formal complaint by NLRB prosecutors in an internal administrative law proceeding — which could result in an order to change Apple’s business practices. The NLRB does not have the power to impose penalties, but can force employers to implement “make-whole remedies,” according to its website.
According to Bloomberg, the cases in question were brought by two former Apple employees, one of whom cited an email from CEO Tim Cook vowing to crack down on information leaks at the company. Only some of the charges filed have been made public through Freedom of Information Act requests, and those that are available on the NLRB website are partially redacted. The contents of investigators’ findings also have not been made public.
But Blado said as part of the investigation an NLRB regional office had “found merit to a charge alleging statements and conduct by Apple — including high-level executives — also violated the National Labor Relations Act.”
The former employee who cited the Cook email in her charges, Ashley Gjovik, told CNN she does not intend to accept any settlement offer from Apple because she hopes to force the company to acknowledge it violated labor law and to amend the policies it applies to its workforce.
“They don’t just have a feeling of impunity — they actually have it with these policies,” Gjovik said, pointing to multiple confidentiality clauses in Apple’s employee handbook that she said allows Apple to bully and intimidate workers into silence about workplace retaliation. “I want to go to the heart of the issues I saw.”
Apple has previously clashed with the NLRB over its handling of workers looking to unionize at its retail stores.
Apple was hit with a complaint from the NLRB over allegations that it interrogated employees regarding their support for a union and selectively prohibited the placement of pro-union fliers in a break room at a New York City Apple store. Apple pushed back at those claims in a filing with the NLRB.