Unlike most other companies, Apple asks that its employees use their work phones like personal ones — and for five years, Apple program manager Janneke Parrish did as she was told. But last week, when Apple asked Parrish for her devices in an internal investigation, she was afraid Apple would see her personal and private information. She disobeyed orders and deleted apps like Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive. Then Apple fired her.
Parrish has been an activist and organizer for the #AppleToo movement that's sharing unpleasant stories from workers inside the company, and one of its few public-facing leaders. The Apple investigation that led to her firing was intended to find the person who, as part of that movement, leaked the contents of a meeting with CEO Tim Cook in real time to the Verge. Parrish was obviously a suspect.
"Sept. 30, I was reached out to and told that I was under investigation as potentially violating Apple policies. There were concerns that I had been the one who had leaked the town hall. I was not," she told Protocol. "They didn't find anything, because I didn't do anything." She handed over her devices after deleting some apps — which she said held personal information and information about political campaigns she's involved in — and then Apple told her they were firing her for doing so. Parrish insists that she has not leaked anything to the press.
The deletion and immediate firing reveal a tension that has become a serious problem for some workers inside Apple with the way the company asks workers to use company-provided devices. Apple needs employees to test its software by using it in real-world scenarios, but it still retains the right to confiscate and examine the devices, meaning that workers are encouraged to do personal things on devices, while also facing the prospect that their employer can look at those personal things whenever it wants. "We are heavily encouraged to include personal stuff. I am a program manager with internal tools, I need to use my work device to be able to test that our internal tools are working the way they are supposed to. Doing that lived experience with the device is a really good way of stress-testing the work that we do," Parrish said.
"The goal of #AppleToo was essentially to ask Apple to do better, to better protect its employees, to provide a more inclusive and safe environment for everyone. The recent retaliatory action against me, it says that's not what we're doing right now. I want to do what I can, within the scope of what's legally protected, to continue asking Apple to do better for its employees," she said.
"We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters," an Apple spokesperson wrote in an email to Protocol.