By Nathalie Voit
The Department of Labor opened a whistleblower investigation into Apple following allegations from a former worker that the tech giant retaliated against her for speaking up against unsafe working conditions and complaining of workplace harassment.
Ashley Gjøvik, a former senior engineering program manager at Apple, filed a complaint earlier this year to the department’s whistleblower protection program “to ensure Apple knows they cannot get away with retaliating against me for exercising my federally and state-protected rights,” The New York Times reported.
Whistleblower laws are enforced by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), which investigates cases of retaliation by employers against workers who engage in protected activity, like bringing up concerns about employee safety.
Gjøvik said she first raised environmental and health safety concerns in March at the Sunnyvale, CA office where she was employed. Gjøvik claimed Apple dismissed her concerns, asking her to stay silent on the matter. Consequently, Gjøvik filed complaints with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission, CNN Business reported.
Gjøvik was suspended from her job in early August and fired on Sept. 9, according to her OSHA complaint. She claimed her termination was retaliation for reporting the violations.
In response to news of the investigation, Apple repeated its previous statements about workplace safety.
“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace,” Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock told the press on Dec. 13, according to the New York Times.
“We take all concerns seriously, and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Gjøvik’s complaint is one of many launched against the company, which has dealt with issues of employee unrest within its ranks for several months.
On Nov. 21, Apple posted a statement to its employees reminding them of their rights to speak up about wages and working conditions in what amounted to a historic win for the employee-led #AppleToo movement.
“Apple is deeply committed to providing employees with a workplace where they feel safe, respected, and inspired to do their best work,” the company previously affirmed, according to CNN Business. “Our policies do not restrict employees from speaking freely about their wages, hours, or working conditions.”