As first reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Monday, National asked 35 employees who were let go from its Arlington, Texas, facility to return the iPods. The report quoted a source as saying that some of the employees had already sold their iPods or given them as gifts.
Jeff Weir, National's director of worldwide public relations, told EE Times via email Wednesday that the iPods were issued to employees not as a gift, but as a communications tool that "would double as fun personal entertainment device."
Weir said the 35 employees who were let go had volunteered for a layoff after the company told employees it needed to reduce its hourly workforce as equipment is taken off line at the site in preparation for an upgrade to the facility. Weir said the affected employees were aware that they were about to leave the company when iPods were distributed the week of June 12. The employees were asked to return the iPods or buy them at a used rate, Weir said.
The iPods that are turned in by departing employees will be issued to new hires, Weir said.
"The iPod is another communications platform that, in our view, will become a commonplace workplace item just like the cell phones, laptops, desktops, Blackerrys and other technology gear that we routinely issue to employees," Weir said. "We also ask employees to turn those items in when they leave, and no one to date has questioned that policy."
Following a very strong fourth quarter, National announced with great fanfare June 12 that it would give its entire 8,500-employee workforce a 30-gigabyte video iPod. At the time, the company said the Apple Computer-made devices would be used as training and communications tools, providing a real-time method for employees to download National podcasts and other employee communications.
According to the Star-Telegram report, at least some Arlington employees were under the impression that the iPod was a gift for employees to keep.