Apple’s Anti-Leak Email Violates the U.S. Labor Laws, Says NLRB

BY Dave Johnson

Published 31 Jan 2023

A ruling declared that Apple violated the United States labor laws by warning employees against leaking the company’s confidential information. 

In 2021, Tim Cook allegedly sent an email that stated that people who leak confidential information about Apple — product I.P. or meeting details — don’t belong in the company. Cook further threatened that Apple was doing everything possible to find the culprits. 

A Bloomberg report revealed that Cook sent the email after details of a company-wide meeting in which the management fielded questions on several topics leaked. The discussion focused on pay equity, Texas’ anti-abortion laws, COVID vaccinations, and working from home. 

The message reads: 

“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 I.P. 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.”

As you may have guessed, the email about stopping leaks in Apple found its way to the internet. What’s more, it turns out that sending such a message violates the United State’s labor laws. 

Here’s why. 

NLRB: Sending an Anti-Leak Email Violates Labor Laws

According to the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, Apple’s anti-leak rules could interfere with, restrain, or coerce its employees from exercising their labor rights. 

Former senior engineering manager at Apple, Ashley Gjovik, brought the dispute to the NLRB when she filed a claim against Apple. Her suit alleged that the email pledging to punish leakers, including a set of policies in Apple’s employee handbook, violated federal law. 

The National Labor Relations Board has found merit to these charges. Furthermore, the Bloomberg report reveals that the agency intends to issue a complaint against Apple if the company doesn’t settle. 

The NLRB can’t act on its own to punish companies for violations. However, it can file complaints. Consequently, administrative law or federal court judges can review the filing to enforce policy changes.