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Apple manager fired after filing harassment complaints has US' OK to sue company, reports say

Ashley Gjovik, a former Apple engineering manager who filed complaints alleging harassment by co-workers, said she received right-to-sue notices after she was fired this week.

Apple computers
Apple has faced increasing pressure from employees about its work culture.
James Martin/CNET

A former Apple engineering manager who filed a complaint with the US National Labor Relations Board last month saying she was harassed and retaliated against was reportedly fired by Apple on Thursday. She says she's now been given approval by California and US civil rights agencies to sue her former employer.

Ashley Gjovik told news outlets including Bloomberg that she was fired from Apple after months of publicly discussing harassment from co-workers, managers and Apple's administrative teams. She went on administrative leave in the summer, following her complaints about a hostile work environment.

Gjovik, who's one of at least two Apple employees who've filed complaints with government authorities over harassment and work culture issues in the past couple of months, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the right-to-sue notices. Apple, which has previously declined to discuss individual employee matters, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

"Apple has an internal culture of surveillance, intimidation and alienation," Gjovik tweeted on Aug. 30

Gjovik's government approval to sue Apple is the latest news involving a wave of employee activism at the iPhone maker this year. In the past few months, employees have circulated internal petitions and informal surveys, pushing back on Apple's return-to-work plans and advocating instead for more-flexible working conditions. Employees have also criticized Apple's plans to scan some US customers' iPhones, iPads and Mac computers for images of child exploitation, worrying that such a move could lead to censorship or arrest by repressive governments (Apple has since delayed its plans).

Current and former Apple employees have been increasingly turning to Twitter to voice their complaints under the hashtag #AppleToo, an effort to discuss allegedly toxic elements of Apple's employee culture and push for change. In an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and the company's senior leadership last week, an employee group asked the tech giant to improve how it treats workers and "fulfill its promise of inclusion, diversity and equity."

In the letter, the group asked for increased privacy of personal information; transparent and fair compensation; an audit of all third-party relationships; increased accountability across leadership and human resource teams; and a process for sharing group concerns. The letter also asks for a reinvestigation of all reports of "racism, discrimination, abuse, harassment, concerted activity suppression and retaliation" at Apple.

Gjovik tweeted that though she's not involved in #AppleToo, she supports the effort. She's also shared her story widely on social media, including posts of some emails and exchanges detailing the hostile environment she says she experienced. She said she, too, hopes to hold the company accountable.

"I have to think they know that I'm not going to let it go," she told Bloomberg in the interview Friday. "I still am very much devoted to holding them accountable for this and trying to make things better for my colleagues and other people in workplaces like this."