A former Apple employee who helped form the #AppleToo movement against alleged harassment and discrimination inside the company told the National Labor Relations Board in a complaint on Tuesday that she believes she was fired in retaliation for her organizing efforts.
Janneke Parrish, who told CNN Business last month she’d been fired from her job as an Apple (AAPL) program manager, alleges that she was terminated “for ‘daring to disturb’ Apple (AAPL)’s ‘universe,’” according to a legal filing with the NLRB claiming unfair labor practices by the company. The NLRB is the independent federal agency responsible for enforcing US labor laws, and such filings prompt an investigation by the agency.
“Specifically, Parrish spoke up regarding her personal experiences regarding workplace concerns and helped give voice to her co-workers’ concerns in a workplace where such issues have been systemically siloed, suppressed, and unaddressed,” according to the filing, which CNN Business obtained.
Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock directed CNN Business to a previous company statement made in response to Parrish’s claim of being fired: “We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. 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.”
The filing represents just the latest escalation of the growing tension between Apple and its workforce. In recent months, employees have broken the company’s legendary culture of secrecy to speak out on controversial hiring decisions, alleged pay disparities and remote work policies.
Parrish and a colleague, Cher Scarlett, created #AppleToo in August to help Apple employees “organize and protect ourselves,” according to the movement’s website. They called on coworkers to share stories of issues they may have faced, including incidents of racism, sexism and discrimination, in order to outline “changes we expect to see Apple make.” Parrish said last month that they received hundreds of reports within weeks, about alleged incidents that “range the gamut from sexism and ageism to disclosures of rape and suicide.”
The goal behind starting #AppleToo, Parrish told CNN Business last month, was calling attention to “systemic issues” within Apple’s culture that have been “systematically swept under the rug” by the company.
Parrish said she was fired on October 14 by Apple for deleting files from her work devices before turning them over to the company as part of an internal investigation into leaks to the press. According to Parrish, the company began investigating her on September 30, days after Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a memo to employees warning that “people who leak confidential information do not belong here.”
Parrish, who said she was not behind the leaks but had spoken publicly to the press about problems at Apple, was asked to hand in her work-issued devices to the company, but she deleted some personal information beforehand. She said those deletions were what Apple cited as the reason for firing her, but in her NLRB complaint, she claimed her termination was actually an effort by the company to quell her organizing.
Among the actions that Parrish took on behalf of herself and her coworkers at Apple, according to the filing, were raising concerns about how she and others were allegedly “belittled, yelled at and treated in an abusive manner,” as well concerns about Apple’s alleged “abusive and discriminatory treatment of people with disabilities” and “employee mental health issues including employee suicide.” Apple declined to respond directly to those allegations.
Apple, according to Parrish’s filing, “terminated Parrish’s employment based upon false and pretextual reasons and in fact terminated her employment in an attempt to nip-in-the-bud the successful organizing campaign that Parrish and her coworkers established to address and redress employees’ workplace concerns.”
CNN’s Rishi Iyengar contributed to this report.