Apple fires employee who alleged workplace sexism for 'leaking confidential data'

Ashley Gjøvik claims she was prepared for such action after calling out the company's policies

A senior Apple engineering programme manager who gained social media attention for calling out workplace discrimination has been fired from the company for allegedly violating rules around leaking confidential information.

Ashley Gjøvik, who has worked for the tech giant for over six years, was placed on indefinite administrative leave in August after she complained on Twitter of Apple's failings in deal with sexual harassment and discrimination.

Apple had already investigated Gjøvik’s claims about sex discrimination once before, but found no wrongdoing in that case.

In an email sent to Gjøvik on Thursday by Apple’s employee relations team, the company said it was looking into “a sensitive intellectual property matter”. Gjøvik replied saying she was happy to help, but preferred to send any questions or updates via email.

She added that she was forwarding the emails to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), who she has filed a charge with.

The employee relations team subsequently said that as she had not chosen to participate in the discussion, they would continue with the investigation based on the information they had, choosing to suspend her access to Apple systems in the meantime. In a follow-up email, Apple revealed that Gjøvik's contract would be terminated on 10 September.

“When I began raising workplace safety concerns in March, and nearly immediately faced retaliation and intimidation, I started preparing myself for something exactly like this to happen,” she told The Verge. “I’m disappointed that a company I have loved since I was a little girl would treat their employees this way.”

IT Pro has contacted Apple for comment.

In December, Timnit Gebru, a leading AI scientist at Google, accused the company of firing her for criticising its treatment of women and employees of colour. Gebru, a former staff research scientist and co-lead of the company's Ethical AI team, also accused the company of forcing her to retract a paper questioning its use of AI tools.

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