Though left-leaning tech titan Apple has taken pains to assure the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it does not engage in efforts to silence employee claims of discrimination and harassment, such representations have now been called into serious question by a prominent whistleblower, as Business Insider reports.
Apple executives reportedly made a series of representations to the SEC on Oct. 18, including assertions that the company takes no steps to quash complaints from former employees or others regarding things such as working conditions at the company.
However, former Apple engineer Cher Scarlett, who was previously engaged in conducting anti-harassment and anti-discrimination campaigns as well as organizing pay equity surveys while employed at the company, is contending otherwise, and she is doing so very publicly.
According to Scarlett, Apple attorneys made it clear to her what they hoped she would say upon her departure from the company amid a settlement of harassment and discrimination claims, endeavoring to restrict her comments to the phrase, “After 18 months at Apple, I’ve decided it is time to move on and pursue other opportunities.”
That statement was part of nondisclosure and non-disparagement provisions contained in Apple’s aforementioned settlement and separation agreement with Scarlett, and it was something that she said sounded “ridiculous” to her, and something with which she did not feel compelled to comply, as Business Insider added.
Apple’s representations to the SEC were prompted by a shareholder proposal that would require Apple to assess risk levels related to its use of NDAs “in the context of harassment, discrimination, and other unlawful acts,” and as noted above, the company explained to the SEC that its “policy is to not use such clauses.”
That, in turn, sparked Scarlett to file her own whistleblower complaint with the SEC, alleging that Apple’s statement regarding NDAs are false and/or misleading, and she also provided the NDA she was requested by the company to sign to Nia Impact Capital, the shareholder group that asked for the risk assessment regarding the use of such agreements in the first place.
Scarlett explained her actions by saying, “I knew the SEC filing was a lie…I wanted a way to be able to hold them accountable to that,” acknowledging that her conduct will likely void the settlement agreement she had with Apple and result in her inability to receive scheduled future monetary payments, adding, “The money that would come in a year isn’t worth [Apple] not being held accountable now.”
Apple did not respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment on the situation, but it seems clear that company leadership has much to answer for surrounding Scarlett’s claims, and it appears that the activist investors at Nia Impact Capital will continue to hold the company’s collective feet to the fire.