By Rishi Iyengar, CNN Business
An Apple employee who led organizing efforts against harassment and discrimination within the company said she has been fired.
Janneke Parrish, a program manager at Apple and one of the organizers of the #AppleToo movement, was suspended late last week and terminated on Thursday, she told CNN Business in an interview on Friday. Parrish said Apple told her she was fired 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.
The move marks the latest escalation of a growing rift between Apple and its employees, who in recent months have broken with the company’s historic culture of secrecy to speak out on controversial hiring decisions, alleged pay disparities and remote work policies.
Parrish and a colleague, Cher Scarlett, create #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 faced including racism, sexism and discrimination in order to outline “changes we expect to see Apple make.”
Parrish told CNN Business Friday they received hundreds of reports in the weeks since then, about incidents that “range the gamut from sexism and ageism to disclosures of rape and suicide.”
Apple did not comment specifically on Parrish’s firing. Scarlett, who remains at the company, declined to comment.
“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace,” Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock said in a statement to CNN. “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.”
According to Parrish, the company began investigating her on September 30, days after CEO Tim Cook sent a memo to employees warning that “people who leak confidential information do not belong here.” The memo, and the leaks from a prior town hall meeting that prompted it, were first reported by The Verge.
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.
“Apple encourages us to merge our private and work devices fairly thoroughly for testing purposes,” she said. “I had some private conversations, private information such as Robinhood investments, things that frankly aren’t Apple’s business to know.”
She said those deletions were what Apple cited as the reason for firing her.
Parrish directed questions on whether she plans further action against Apple to her lawyer, Chris Albanese, who told CNN Business that he is “exploring all different avenues on behalf of our client.”
The goal behind starting #AppleToo, Parrish said, was calling attention to “systemic issues” within Apple’s culture that have been “systematically swept under the rug” by the company.
“One thing about Apple’s culture is that it is a deeply secretive company,” she said, adding that employees in the office often don’t know what the person next to them is working on. “With #AppleToo and with remote work … we’re no longer alone, we’re no longer isolated, and we’re recognizing that what one of us experiences, many of us experience.”
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