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The Flip Side of Apple’s Focus on Secrecy

During Apple’s all-company meeting in mid-September, employees asked CEO Tim Cook about pay equity within the company and how Apple planned to handle the new Texas law that made abortion illegal. In addressing the pay equity question, Cook responded that when the company finds a pay gap, it closes it. Not everyone found his answer satisfying. Cook also said Apple was considering supporting legal challenges to the Texas abortion law, and the company’s medical insurance would help Texas employees needing to travel outside the state to get an abortion.

In the last few months, Apple employees have become more vocal. According to the New York Times, over 500 individuals have submitted accounts of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, retaliation, and discrimination while employed at Apple. The current and former employees submitted their accounts to #AppleToo, an employee-activist group. Many employees believe Apple’s focus on secrecy has created a culture that discourages employees from speaking out about their workplace concerns with co-workers, to the press, and on social media. Employees fear repercussions from the company for criticizing it. One employee interviewed shared how the secrecy Apple requires for its products “bleeds into other areas of the culture where it is prohibitive and damaging.”

Apple’s recent firing of Ashley Gjøvik likely exacerbated those fears. A former senior engineering program manager, Gjøvik shared her allegations of harassment and workplace concerns publicly. Apple placed her on leave and then fired her. She stated Apple told her she was fired for leaking product information and not cooperating with its investigation. Apple has not publicly commented in response to her administrative complaints about her termination.