Tim Cook faces employee unrest over Apple's 'toxic culture of secrecy'

Hundreds complain about environment, submitting accounts of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination

Tim Cook faces employee unrest over Apple's 'toxic culture of secrecy'

Apple CEO Tim Cook has vowed to identify employees who leaked the contents of an internal meeting … according to a leaked email.

According to The Verge, Cook sent the email to staff after details from a company-wide internal meeting were reported in the media. He said the tech giant is doing “everything in our power to identify those who leaked” and insisted that “people who leak confidential information do not belong” at Apple.

Cook had announced during the meeting that Apple would be requiring frequent testing for unvaccinated employees — but was stopping short of a vaccine mandate. He added that he was looking forward to moving on from the Epic v. Apple antitrust case. Both pieces of news were leaked to The Verge.

In his email, Cook said: “I’m writing today because I’ve heard from [sic] 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.”

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The news compounds recent reports of employee unrest, with many slamming Apple’s secretive corporate culture. According to the Business Standard, Cook acknowledged in a meeting broadcast to employees – and according to a recording obtained by The New York Times – that workplace and social issues roiling Silicon Valley for several years have taken root at Apple.

Over the past month, more than 500 people who said they were current and former employees have submitted accounts of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination at work, among other issues, to an employee-activist group that calls itself #AppleToo, according to Cher Scarlett and Janneke Parrish, two ex-Apple employees who help lead the group.

A common theme among the disgruntled activists is that Apple’s secrecy pushes down concerns and people’s desire to talk about them to co-workers, the press and on social media. Complaints about managers or colleagues are frequently dismissed, according to reports.

“Apple has this culture of secrecy that is toxic,” said Christine Dehus, who worked at Apple for five years and left in August, to Business Standard. “On one hand, yes, I understand the secrecy piece is important for product security, to surprise and delight customers. But it bleeds into other areas of the culture where it is prohibitive and damaging.”

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Cook and Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s human resources chief, said in response to a question about pay equity on Friday that Apple regularly scrutinized its compensation practices to ensure it paid employees fairly.

“When we find any gaps at all, which sometimes we do, we close them,” O’Brien said.

Asked what Apple was doing to protect its employees from Texas’ abortion restrictions, Cook said that the company was looking into whether it could aid the legal fight against the new law and that its medical insurance would help pay for Apple workers in Texas if they needed to travel to other states for an abortion.

Apple has about 160,000 employees around the world.

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