The willingness of Apple employees to speak out in public about workplace issues just had its first casualty. Apple just fired Ashley Gjovik, an engineering project manager who spoke out against workplace safety issues, effective September 10.
A History of Loving Her Work
Gjovik has worked for Apple for almost seven years. She says she has agonized over product launches, putting her blood, sweat, and tears into every project she has led. Sleepless nights are nothing new, because she loved the products she was working on.
Unfortunately, she experienced a number of serious workplace safety and discrimination issues during her time at Apple. When she discovered that her office was in a building located on one of the Bay Area’s EPA Superfund sites, she was worried about employee safety. These are locations once deemed too contaminated for continued use. Reclaiming the lands required stringent cleanup efforts, but money talks. Often, those cleanup efforts weren’t actually done the way they should have been.
Gjovik had already experienced health problems related to another Superfund site. She spent quite some time in an apartment that “she thought was killing her”.
She discovered the cleanup efforts didn’t actually remove or isolate the contaminants properly. When Gjovik discovered her Apple office location might face similar issues, she tried to raise the red flag. Instead of taking her concerns seriously, Cupertino tried to force her into an investigation of sexism in the workplace.
Apple’s Response to Whistleblower Employees Is, Apparently, Termination
Gjovik faced what she described as intimidation and retaliation as a whistleblower employee. Eventually, she had no choice but to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Days later, she was notified that Apple was looking into “a sensitive intellectual property matter” that it wanted to speak with her about. Gjovik responded that she was happy to help, but wanted to keep everything in written form.
Not even an hour later, Gjovik received another email claiming she had improperly disclosed some Apple confidential information. The email advised that “since you have chosen not to participate in the discussion, we will move forward with the information that we have, and given the seriousness of these allegations, we are suspending your access to Apple systems”.
Gjovik replied, reiterating that she was more than happy to help in the investigation, as long as happened through email. Several hours later, Apple responded with a letter formally and finally terminating her employment.
Looking through the volumes of emails and other documentation, the picture all of this paints is not a pretty one. What we have here is an employee who raised serious concerns about workplace safety. When her employer responded with intimidation and retaliation, she went public and brought the matter to the National Labor Relations Board.
This is what makes me believe the #AppleToo movement, which Gjovik is not actually a leader of, is a good thing. Gjovik fully supports that movement, but her issues focused more on workplace safety than the discrimination and sexism inside Cupertino #AppleToo wants eradicated. For Gjovik, that is what really hurts. “The most depressing part of this,” she said, “is that they would treat me like this related to raising safety concerns — the bare minimum of labor protections.”