‘Culture of fear’ dominates Apple’s secretive satellite office

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Working for Apple isn't always a dream come true.
Photo: Apple

People that worked for Apple through a staffing agency have revealed some grim details of what it’s like to work for Apple as a contracted employee.

Working on Apple’s mapping projects just a few miles from Apple Park sounds like a dream opportunity, but it turns out the Silicon Valley-based gig isn’t nearly as glamorous as you’d think. A new report about Apple’s temporary workers reveals the “culture of fear” contracted employees face.

Like most major tech companies, Apple hires contracted workers through various staffing companies to fill temporary positions. Bloomberg talked to over a dozen former and currently contracted employees that worked for Apple Maps. Many of the workers took the job thinking they’d get a chance to work for Apple as a direct employee but were really in a dead end job.

“It was made pretty plain to us that we were at-will employees and they would fire us at any time,” says one former contractor. “There was a culture of fear among the contractors which I got infected by and probably spread.”

Apple’s secretive Hammerwood facility

Bloomberg’s report focuses mostly on an Apple office building on Hammerwood Avenue in Sunnyvale. Many of the contracted employees for the mapping projects are hired through Apex Systems. Contracted workers are given an Apple badge and work in the same building as direct Apple employees, but they’re treated like second-class employees.

Some of Apex workers said they took the job just so they could put Apple on their resume. Even though they’re working to improve Apple Maps, employees were told they couldn’t reference Apple as an employer on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Instead, they described their employer as “A Major Tech Company Via Apex Systems.”

Contracted workers don’t get access to the same benefits as direct Apple employees, such as the 100,000 square-foot gym at Apple Park or the same healthcare benefits. Contractors at the Hammerwood offices have to use the backdoor of the non-descript building. They also allegedly have to walk a few blocks from the building before hailing a ride through Uber or Lyft.

Bathroom complaints

Ridiculously long restroom lines are one of the other big problems. Direct employees and contracted workers in the same building have to use separate restrooms. Because there are more contracted employees, their restroom facilities get used more and have long lines. It’s so bad some workers filed complaints against Apple with the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Cal/OSHA.

Socializing too much could also get you fired. Several workers said they would get notifications if they were away from their work desks for too long. Others said Apex managers sometimes broke up unauthorized water-cooler socializing.

Despite the complaints, Apple says it recently audited the Hammerwood facility and didn’t find any major problems. “Like we do with other suppliers, we will work with Apex to review their management systems, including recruiting and termination protocols, to ensure the terms and conditions of employment are transparent and clearly communicated to workers in advance,” an Apple spokesperson said.