Whistleblower casts doubt on Apple's claims that it doesn't silence employees

Credit: Apple

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Cher Scarlett, a central organizer of the #AppleToo movement, said Apple attempted to get her to sign a strict NDA as part of a separation agreement that she didn't end up signing.

Scarlett was an early founder of the #AppleToo movement, which sought to bring light to alleged racism, sexism, inequality, and other issues at Apple. After reaching a settlement with Apple, Scarlett agreed to leave the company and drop a National Labor Relations Board complaint. The complaint is still on the books at this time.

As part of a separation agreement offered in October, Apple lawyers attempted to get Scarlett to sign strict nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses. Some of the language in the agreements outlined exactly what Apple wanted Scarlett to say about her departure: "After 18 months at Apple, I've decided it is time to move on and pursue other opportunities."

Scarlett told Business Insider that she was "shocked" by the clause.

"In my mind, I should be able to say whatever I want as long as I'm not defaming Apple," she said.

The #AppleToo organizer declined to sign the gag order. However, Business Insider reports that it was fresh on her mind when the company made several statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission in October.

In response to a shareholder proposal expressing concern about the use of NDAs "in the context of harassment, discrimination, and other unlawful acts," Apple told the SEC that it doesn't use such clauses.

However, Scarlett filed a whistleblower complaint on Oct. 25 calling Apple's statements to the SEC "false statements or misleading." She cited her own experience receiving NDAs from Apple, and included a copy of the settlement agreement with her whistleblower complaint.

On Monday, Nia Impact Capital — the activist shareholder group that expressed the NDA concerns — informed the SEC on Monday that it had "received information, confidentially provided, that Apple has sought to use concealment clauses in the context of discrimination, harassment, and other workplace labor violation claims." Scarlett revealed that she was the source of the information Monday evening.

The separation agreement from October is separate from the pending settlement with Apple that prompted the dropping of the NLRB complaint.

Apple is in the midst of controversy surrounding employees organizing. While the notoriously secretive company condemned recent leaks to the press, Apple earlier in November issued a memo that affirmed employees' rights to openly discuss pay and workplace conditions.

Back in October, Ashley Gjovik — who was fired in September for allegedly sharing confidential information — also filed a complaint with the SEC.