New Report Delves Into Poor Working Conditions at an Apple Maps 'Black Site'

A new report out today by Bloomberg offers a look inside one of Apple's so-called "black sites," this one a satellite office near Apple Park in California where the company hires contractors to work on Apple Maps. These contract workers were hired by Apex Systems, which staffs and manages a few Apple mapping offices, and creates a "culture of fear" according to former employees.

One former worker at the black site near ‌Apple Park‌, on Hammerwood Avenue in Sunnyvale, said that "it was made pretty plain to us that we were at-will employees and they would fire us at any time." Most workers at the office signed up for 12-15 month work contracts, but many didn't make it that long.

apple maps via bloomberg

Image via David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

To hire workers, sources referred to "aggressive" messaging received via LinkedIn. Apex Systems browses the social network to find people with proficiency in mapping-related skills, and then "messages them repeatedly." Former workers then say Apex uses the revelation that the job will be for Apple as a way to tip potential employees over the edge and easily hire them.

Former workers described a poor work environment with understocked vending machines, long lines for men's bathrooms due to a predominantly male workforce, and restrictions on using the bathrooms designated for full-time Apple employees. To protect Apple's secrets, management instructed employees to enter the building through the back door every day, and to walk several blocks away from the building before calling for a ride home at the end of the day.

The working environment was uncomfortable in other ways, according to current and former contractors. Apex managers sometimes broke up unauthorized water-cooler socializing. Several workers say their managers would get notifications if their workstations were idle for too long. “Being monitored like that is super dehumanizing and terrifying,” says one former Apex mapping technician.

Many workers who took the contract jobs did so because Apex played up the possibility of landing full-time work with Apple down the line, but chances for this turned out to be small. At the same time, many other workers agreed to the contract work to have Apple on their resume, but even that wasn't a possibility.

At first, they could put "Apple, via Apex Systems" as their employer on sites like LinkedIn, but then in the summer of 2018 Apex instructed all workers to remove the word "Apple" and to describe their employer as "A Major Tech Company Via Apex Systems."

These differences between contract workers and full-time employees have led to what some sources called a caste system within Apple.

The restrictions were just one of many reminders of the contractors’ inferior status, right down to the apple design on their ID badges. For direct employees, the apples were multi-colored; contractors got what one described as “sad grey.” It’s common for companies to distribute different badges to contractors, a practice that discontented workers across the industry have seized on as evidence of a caste system.

Amber Lutsko, who worked for Apple through Apex in 2017 and 2018, described an opening-day pep talk that aimed to make her feel both honored and excluded. “‘You work at Apple now! You have made it!’” she recalls being told. “‘You’re not allowed to use the gym.’”

The Hammerwood office is managed by Apex, not Apple, and in a surprise audit on the staffing company, Apple said it found a work environment consistent with other Apple locations. According to an Apple spokesperson, "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."

In November 2018, Apex changed the maximum amount of paid annual sick time from 48 to 24 hours, leading to a protest as over a dozen contractors said they had suddenly fallen ill and left work. Around the same time, Apex suddenly fired about two dozen people. Eventually, many remaining employees left Apex permanently and moved onto contract work at other companies that had better benefits for these workers, including Facebook and Google.

One former Apple contractor who worked under Apex, Amber Lutsko, was one of the workers who quit before her contract was up because of the company's questionable practices. Even now, a few months after she stopped working for Apex, the company's recruiters still find her through LinkedIn and send her messages about potential employment with a can't-be-named silicon valley company.

Other former contractors report the same, even ones who were fired by Apex: "You got rid of me because of my quote-unquote performance, and every three months I get these emails," says one of them. "It's insulting, honestly."

Head to Bloomberg to read the full report: What It's Like To Work Inside Apple's 'Black Site'

Top Rated Comments

mrjohnnyglass Avatar
35 months ago
Having worked for a contractor at Apple twice, I can 100% vouch for the idea that a "caste" system is in place. First off, they give you badges with a silver color, and all Apple Standard employees have a colored badge. You get looked down upon by EVERYONE when they see your badge. You can't use the company facilities like gym, pool, and can't pay for your lunch via your badge like other employees. When 3rd-party vendors come in to do demos, you aren't allowed to see them. On product launch days, you don't get details on new products, and aren't allowed to say things to customers on the phone that someone next to you might be able to say just because they're an actual Apple employee. All of your calls are live monitored in real time. I've seen people say something incorrect on the phones and they will literally come over to their desk on the phones and when they hang up, tell them to pack their things and please exit the building, escorted by security.

I was in the sales department, but there were absolutely unreasonable metrics set that were borderline unattainable, even by top reps that were contractors. Contractors also have different metrics than standard employees. Also, Apple pays these staffing companies comparable to what they pay internal staff, and then those staffing companies (Volt, I'm looking at you), take almost half, and leave you with $15-$17 per hour, with no commission.

All the while, they dangle this carrot of "If you do well, Apple will hire you directly". In my two contracts of a year and a half total, I saw probably 3 people get hired out of 600 contractors that were utilized during that period.

It's a ******** way of doing business. Granted, I was young and wanted the work experience, which is why I did it. However, I would NEVER recommend it to anyone, and suggest finding gainful employment elsewhere.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Baymowe335 Avatar
35 months ago
People can be so soft these days.

There are far worse conditions than a freaking office, lol. Understocked vending machines? Lines in the bathroom? Are they serious?
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BODYBUILDERPAUL Avatar
35 months ago
So go & work somewhere better.
Such empathy! Not quite as easy as that for many people! You'd make great management there!
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rafterman Avatar
35 months ago
Some of you must work for crap companies to try and defend Apex. The quality of a company's product is often representative of how they treat their employees. Motivated employees work better.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Steve121178 Avatar
35 months ago
So go & work somewhere better.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GrumpyMom Avatar
35 months ago
Okay is this a real article or lifted from an Onion parody on Millennials?

A sad grey? Really? Oh goodness another suicide net scandal is about to erupt. Damn you, Apple!
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
gradiente iphone white

Brazilian Electronics Company Revives Long-Running iPhone Trademark Dispute

Tuesday May 19, 2020 1:06 pm PDT by
Apple has been involved in a long-running iPhone trademark dispute in Brazil, which was revived today by IGB Electronica, a Brazilian consumer electronics company that originally registered the "iPhone" name in 2000. IGB Electronica fought a multi-year battle with Apple in an attempt to get exclusive rights to the "iPhone" trademark, but ultimately lost, and now the case has been brought to...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Premium Subscribers Can Now Use iOS Picture-in-Picture: Here's How

Wednesday August 25, 2021 3:55 am PDT by
Google has rolled out picture-in-picture support as an "experimental" feature for YouTube premium subscribers, allowing them to watch video in a small window when the app is closed. If you're a premium YouTube subscriber looking to try out picture-in-picture, follow these steps: Launch a web browser and sign into your YouTube account at YouTube.com. Navigate to www.youtube.com/new. Scroll...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
apple screen time screen icons

Persistent Kids Finding Loopholes in Apple's Screen Time Limits

Tuesday October 15, 2019 9:44 am PDT by
Apple is currently engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with persistent kids looking to circumvent Screen Time restrictions, but the company has been receiving some criticism for not moving quickly enough to lock down some of the loopholes, reports The Washington Post. A few of the loopholes and ways for parents to shut them down are documented on the site Protect Young Eyes, while these and...
2012macpro

Apple Outlines Metal-Capable Cards Compatible With macOS Mojave on 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro Models

Monday September 24, 2018 3:26 pm PDT by
Apple's new macOS Mojave update is not compatible with mid-2010 and mid-2012 Mac Pros with stock GPUs, but it is supported on 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro models that have been upgraded with graphics cards that support Metal. Apple today shared a new support document that provides a list of graphics cards that are Metal-capable, which will be useful for 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro owners who want to...
bluetti eb70 main

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station and 200W Solar Panel

Friday September 3, 2021 11:13 am PDT by
For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with MAXOAK to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a Bluetti portable power station and an accompanying solar panel. Bluetti makes a range of portable power station options that are useful for camping, emergencies, power outages, off-grid living, and similar situations. The Bluetti EB70 is a solid middle of the road option that offers 716Wh and...
anker lightning cable mfi

Unwrap a New Apple Device? Stock Up on Extra Certified Lightning Cables for as Little as $6

Monday December 25, 2017 5:45 am PST by
If you unwrapped an Apple product today it likely came with one of the company's first-party Lightning cables, but having an extra on hand is always a good idea, so you can place it in other rooms in your house, in your car, or in a bag when you travel. For that reason, now's a good time to shop for third-party Lightning cables that are cheaper than Apple's own accessory, but still Made For...
ipad pro 10 5

Apple Discontinues 10.5-Inch iPad Pro Following Launch of Lower-Priced 10.5-Inch iPad Air

Monday March 18, 2019 6:09 am PDT by
Apple has stopped selling the second-generation 10.5-inch iPad Pro, originally released in June 2017, after launching a new 10.5-inch iPad Air today. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro had remained available from $649 following the release of 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models in October 2018, but it has been replaced by the 10.5-inch iPad Air with a cheaper starting price of $499. The new iPad...