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Apple becomes subject of Labor Department investigation

The probe stems from a whistleblower's allegations earlier this year.

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Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The US Department of Labor is investigating allegations from a former Apple employee that the company retaliated against her for raising concerns of unsafe working conditions and complaining of workplace harassment. 

The Labor Department confirmed it's conducting an investigation but declined to identify who lodged the complaint, which was earlier reported by The Financial Times. But former Apple engineering manager Ashley Gjovik, who had previously complained about a hostile work environment at the iPhone maker, told CNET on Monday that she filed the whistleblower complaint because she wanted justice for herself and protection for other Apple employees.

Gjovik had filed a complaint with the US National Labor Relations Board in August that detailed her allegations of harassment and retaliation. The next month, she said she'd been fired by Apple after months of publicly discussing harassment from co-workers, managers and administrative teams.

"Apple retaliated against me with such impunity. It seemed like they thought they'd never be held accountable," she said. "I want to ensure the world sees that even the biggest company in the world isn't immune from accountability."

Apple, which has previously declined to discuss individual employee matters, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Gjovik's original complaint stemmed from early March, when she raised concerns of "vapor intrusion exposure" at her Apple office in Sunnyvale, California. The building is located on a Superfund site formerly operated by TRW Microwave, and Gjovik's complaint noted that a member of Apple's board of directors is a former CEO of Northrup Grumman, which acquired TRW Microwave in 2002.

Gjovik is one of at least two Apple employees who have filed complaints with government authorities over harassment and work culture issues in the past few months. The complaints come as the tech giant faces a wave of employee activism.

In August, employees criticized Apple's move to scan US customers' iPhones and computers for images of child sex abuse, worrying it could lead to censorship or arrest by repressive governments. In July, employees began circulating an internal petition pressing executives for more flexible working conditions as the company began laying out post-lockdown return-to-work polices amid the COVID pandemic.