Apple Violated U.S. Labor Laws With Anti-Leak Email
Apple violated United States labor laws when it sent out an email warning employees about leaking confidential information about the company, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said today in a ruling shared by Bloomberg.
Rules that Apple has established around leaks “tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees” from the exercise of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, says the NLRB, as do statements from “high-level executives.”
The NLRB’s decision references an employee email that was sent out by Apple CEO Tim Cook in November 2021. Cook said that people who leak confidential information about Apple “do not belong” at the company, whether they were discussing “product IP or the details of a confidential meeting.” At the time, he threatened that Apple was doing “everything in [its] power to identify those who leaked.” From Cook’s email:
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.
Cook’s email wasn’t referencing a product leak, but was instead aimed at employees who had shared details about a meeting focused on pay equity, working from home, COVID vaccinations, and more.
According to the NLRB, Cook violated worker rights with his statements, and as a result, Apple will need to settle with the NLRB to avoid a complaint. The NLRB is not able to act on its own to punish companies for violations, but NLRB complaints are reviewed by administrative law judges and can head to federal court where policy changes can be enacted.
Last year, the NLRB also said that Apple violated federal law by holding mandatory anti-union meetings and interrogating and coercing employees at its Atlanta and New York store locations.
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