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back to article Apple was OK to fire man for private Facebook comments

Apple was right to fire an employee of one of its UK stores for saying rude things about the company on his Facebook wall, an employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds ruled.* The tribunal judge upheld Apple's dismissal of the man for gross misconduct in a case which sets another precedent for social network users who like to bitch …

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Anonymous Coward

"These are the same commentards who daily lambast Facebook for having crap (and circumventable) privacy facilities, suddenly saying that they're the best thing in the world"

Wow - if you know these are the same people, Facebook and The Reg privacy really is shocking.

Or it could be you've never heard of Set Theory.

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Mushroom

Apple ate my hamster!!

Ironically I once criticized the so and so department of a major so and so IT something company by contacting the SVP of the US side of the company. As he thought I was just some random IT geek he agreed with my synopsis of that particular aspect of IT. Strangely my manager here in the Great British Republic didn't. I made polite suggestions of 'well we need more infrastructure at end (a) and (b) not just (a) .... as in you've got you head up your backside kind of scenario. I now work for someone else gladly. The lesson if you want satisfaction slagging someone off do it anonymously.

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this reminds me of

one report where a guy wanted a refund on his exploding iphone/ipod dodaa and apple would only agree if he signed away his right to talk about the new feature & refund

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/03/ipod_flames/

now we know why apple products have such a 'high quality' reputation for this products.

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he should campaign

The sacked guy should stand outside the Apple store with anti-Apple banners (it would also give him a chance to wait for the coniving colleague to appear and then do what needs to be done) ;o)

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Megaphone

Take off the Apple blinkers people

For goodness sake wake up people. I know that the yoof of today don't think anything of sharing their intimate thoughts with thousands of Facebook friends but I had hoped that the denzies of El Reg were above that.

There is no mention as to how big his friends list was in the original article. I know people that have hundreds of people on theirs, most of which they have a tenuous real life contact with at best. How many/few people would have to be on the friends list for it to be considered public?

Search on Google for people being sacked for emails to a select number of friends/colleages. You'll find a whole bunch of them. It doesn't matter that the intention wasn't to publish to the whole world, the fact is that once published the comments are beyond his control, and are instead in the control of others. That places them in the public domain.

It's not difficult people. Try and get away from the 'its Apple so they must be in the wrong' and look at it from all angles.

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Big Brother

Copyright issue, surely?

So, say someone posts their digital work to a private online service but I, being a priveleged member, make an exact copy and share it by downloading or reposting outside of the service. Would this mean I'm in the clear when it comes to legal action under civil law, as the original owner of the digital work in actual fact shared it 'publicly', and therefore should not expect any level of 'privacy'?

Thought not...

So perhaps the ex-cult member should counter-sue their facebook frenemy under civil law on 2 infringements:

1. Breach of copyright in downloading and distributing original work of art (namely facebook post denigrating Apple) and,

2. Damaging reputation of ex-Apple worker leading to loss of income?!

If it was me I'd definitely go for the copyright breach - I'm pretty sure there are some good examples knocking around the web to use as a template for a PAY-UP-OR-ELSE copyright infringement letter. Being an unworldly and loyal Apple devotee, the frenemy will probably be reaching for their wallet before they've even finished reading it.

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A brilliant success for Apple

It's a brilliant success for whichever authoritarian faulty-reasoner at Apple decided to bring the case. Now, instead of Apple's image taking a couple of very minor hits in a restricted circle, the company has been revealed before the world to be (at least in part) controlled by tiny-minded bully-boys who think they are entitled to exercise Orwellian degrees of mind control over what their employees do or say in their own private time. Whatever damage the dismissed employee may have doen their image, the clowns who fired him have done thousands of times more.

Remember, "just because you're into control, doesn't mean you are in control".

All the best,

John.

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Bronze badge

Wouldn't that require the fact to be previously unknown?

Apple have a long reputation for being control freaky vindictive gits.

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Anonymous Coward

You're missing the point here

Nobody's commented yet on Apple's motivation -- They sacked this guy because his private talk might have made the company look bad. Betcha five dollars they got a lot more negative press from this lawsuit than they ever would have received from his private FB post.

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Public

Because even UK judges know that Facebook is not really private?

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Silver badge

next step

make said farcebook entry public.

Add the phrase "As a FORMER crapple employee I can now say:" to the beginning.

Add the entire background of the sorted affair.

Image may matter, but how you treat your employees is part of that image. I can't image an unsympathetic public.

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FAIL

And this

is why I never use my real name on the internet

Still I had a laughable NDA to sign at one job

"You may not use any technical skills or knowledge gained while in the employment of <wankers.com> while working for your next employer(s)"

When I left they took me to the psycorp to have 4 yrs of my life blanked. or was it the pub?

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Silver badge

Bah.

If you don't want your boss/spouse/grandmother/kids/pet weasel seeing it, don't post it online. Anywhere. Simple as that.

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FAIL

At this point, I wouldn't make of US laws, this is stupid.

What a joke of a law.

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FAIL

Damage Control FAIL.

Whilst I think Apple were probably 'technically' in the right on this one, I can't help but think that the reporting of this guy getting fired for criticising Apple will surely travel much further than the original Facebook comment ever could have done.

Seems like a damage control fail if you ask me, surely something like a verbal warning would've made so much more sense and so much less publicity?

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Anonymous Coward

Finally some justice

Finally some persepctive! if he was unahppy then leave or raise these issues so they can be resolved.

Just bitching all day long to your co-workers and demotivating everyone in the team is just being an A55.

Too early to tell if this is going to mean we get manufacturing and service jobs back in Britain again lol....

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Anonymous Coward

Eh?

I'm missing something obvious here. The guy uses Facebook and has friends?

However I'm on Apple's side. That employee was obviously a dork of the highest order. And he's probably finding it a tad difficult to find other employment now, quite rightly so in my opinion. He who pays the piper has a reasonable right to require rights relating to the tunes that are being played.

I wouldn't be very happy if an employee of mine were backstabbing my company. I would be quite happy to listen to and discuss any discontent - privately.

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Says it all really

"image is so central to its success"

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FAIL

Companies that can't take criticism

Today's companies cannot take criticism. That is why in fact they censor there employees with this rules.

Apple is at fault here for not being able to deal with criticism in reasonable manner. This also applies to every company how behaves like this.

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Anonymous Coward

goose stepping

Welcome to the new world order..

The new Goose stepping Corporate Extortion Racket now controls Governemnts and their war machine

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Thumb Down

u mad? lol

so now employers can actually dictate what employees do online? if you work for a certain company, you have to love them, even if you don't?

the company i work for has a policy like this in place, but there's another policy that overrules it, it's called PRIVACY LAWS!

I thought the UK had good privacy laws and protected employees from ridiculous shit like this, guess i was wrong.

sad to read, i hope it doesn't come to this over here as well.

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Nice mates..

So let me get this straight... only his friends could see the wall - which means it was one of his 'friends' who dobbed him in?

That's a nice bunch of mates you've got there...

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Boffin

Rights and responsibilities

There's lots of writing about rights here - right to free speech, and so on - but not enough about responsibilities. If you take an employer's money, month after month, and are responsible for selling its products, then you have a duty towards it. I don't care if the company is Apple, or McDonalds, or the local garage down the street. Long before Charters Of Rights became fashionable, there was a simple aphorism to describe the relationship: You Don't Bite The Hand That Feeds You.

If an employee is going to slag off his employer, in a public forum, in writing, then he can't expect to remain an employee. I don't understand why people don't get that, it's pretty damned simple.

If I go down the pub with some friends, or have dinner with them, and make rude remarks about my employer, then I run the risk that they will go tell my employer. That's a risk I choose to accept with some friends, and not with others. As I understand it, Facebook "privacy" and "friends" aren't quite the same thing, and of course it's all in writing.

Some people have said that Apple reacted wrongly. As I see it, they're in no-obvious-win land here, and they've chosen the best course. What can they do? He may have already had a slap on the wrist and a verbal warning, we don't know. But I suspect not - if you just do that, then the message it sends to other staff is that he got away with breaching one of the tenets of behaviour that they were told in induction were fundamental, so that's not too clever.

So if they try and sack him and keep him quiet, well they can do that if he's willing - it's called a compromise agreement - but it'll cost a lot of money. So the message that THAT sends is that slagging your employer off in public gets you a nice tax-free lump sum. Again, not too clever.

So they've done what they've done, and actually it's the right thing to do. It garners some short-term nagative publicity, but most right-thinking people will agree that it was the right thing for Apple to do, so it won't be that damaging. And, internally, it sends the message to staff that if you have a problem with us, you sort it out internally: If you slag us off in public, as we have asked you not to do as a condition of your employment, then we WILL sack you and we WILL win and you WILL be landed with costs.

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FAIL

are you serious?

i quote:

If you take an employer's money, month after month, and are responsible for selling its products, then you have a duty towards it.

it's called doing my fucking job! once i leave, i'm no longer doing my job and therefore free to do whatever the fuck i want. Biting the hand that feeds me? it's not like i'm getting a handout, i work hard for my money, my responsibility to the company ends there, with working hard.

I'm sure you're the type of person who's also in favor of creating a national database with everyone's DNA in it, so it's easier to round up potential suspect? that all cars should be fitted with GPS units, just in case someone commits a crime with it?

Where do you get off saying people take money?

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Flame

@Danny 5

=> once i leave, i'm no longer doing my job and therefore free to do whatever the fuck i want.

How hard is this to understand? Yes, you are free to do "whatever the fuck" you want. And that includes slagging off your employer. You have a right to free speech, you can exercise it. You also have a right to receive the consequences of exercising that right. And if you've been told that slagging off your employer in public will result in your dismissal, then dismissal is what you will get. End of story.

If the employer tells the employee at induction, or writes in in their contract, that "Hey, we're relaxed here, you can say what you like about us and we won't take it personally, we love feedback even when it's delivered in public" then yes, you're right, the employer can't exactly complain when someone does this.

But the articles that we've been shown (and some comments earlier on this forum from people who've been through the Apple induction) indicate that Apple make it very clear to their staff that image is important and they shall do nothing intentional to bring that image into disrepute. If the staff continue to accept the money, then they have accepted that deal. If they don't accept the deal, then they are free to not take the money and work for an employer who is more "understanding".

And thank you but I do not appreciate the ad-hominem attack, the insinuation that I'm some sort of fascist Nazi who wants to run a big-brother state. I don't undestand how you came to that conclusion; it's none of your business but I'm actually rather the opposite, a libertarian who believes in rights, especially for disadvantaged and disabled (both physically disabled and learning-disabled) people who can't necessarily speak up for or fight for themselves. I believe very strongly in individual rights, but I also believe that with rights come responsibilities. And employers have rights too. In this Apple case, this guy exercised his right to free speech. He's absolutely entitled to do that. However, he also has to accept responsibility for his own actions, no-one is to blame for his current unemployed status except himself.

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Yes Dominus? Err, no - go f*ck yourselves Apple

So Mr Wood, if you worked in the public sector - you'd accept you couldn't say anything that is construed as negative against your employer if they'd put that in an employment contract?

Please consider very carefully how you answer that one. Don't even try the "ah, it's different" cop-out - it's not. An employment contract isn't slavery,and Facebook isn't CNN or a full page in the Times.

It would be different if the employee had stood up at Keynote with a banner saying "Iphones are sh1t, and Apple supports child slavery", and it was reported worldwide.

This employee had the expectation that his comments were within the "walled garden" (TM Apple Corp) of his private social forum comments. It doesn't matter what Apple says, if he explicitly declared a conversation to be private - and the actual audience is shown to be limited to a very small number of people, then it's clearly not disparaging or damaging to the brand.

Cut a long rant short - either Facebook should be sued for breach of privacy/Data Protection, and the rat should be sued for breach of copyright.

Here was me going out to buy a MacBook Pro this weekend. F*ck em, I want to hear what this guy said first. Does anyone know?

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@scott30

Why does private or public sector make a difference? A contract is a contract - either I agree to its terms - and take the money - or I don't, and find a different employer.

This isn't slavery. Slavery is when people get held captive and are forced to work against their will. This is paid employment, a voluntary relationship. An employer is free to put all sorts of terms in their contract - mine has an opt-out from the working time directive, for example, so I'm free to work as many hours as I want :-) - and it's up to employees whether they accept those terms, or find a different employer. If an employer finds that their terms are too onerous and they can't recruit, they'll change their terms. Supply and demand.

Apple have a right to do what they did. And you or I have a right to disapprove of it and take our business elsewhere. That's all fine. That was a calculation Apple must have made when they decided to go down this route.

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Anonymous Coward

'Private' vs. 'public' isn't black and white

Think of this like unencrypted e-mail, a postcard, or a private conversation held in the pub. Each is intended to be between certain persons, but each can be overheard by someone in-between.

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Thanks for the case reference

What most people don't realise though is that these judgements are only "public" if you travel over to Bury St Edmunds (it houses the public register not just a tribunal). If you don't have the case reference you have to search for it on a computer system that seems to be using a ZX81 with a dodgy ram pack as a server.

Shouldn't these be posted online?

So El Reg, can you scan in a copy of the judgement and post it online? In response to the earlier statement about fabricating evidence, Google for Petryk v Cancer Research. You should be able to find the judgement online. The last paragraph is telling. I don't know if there have been criminal charges but there should have been.

I have evidence online at www.prolifevote.org.uk/pdfs/rnibevidence.pdf. I've been asked by the mods not to accuse them of lying, but the facts should speak for themselves.

I would love to see tribunal hearings televised, that would settle a lot more cases...

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Not quite right Pete Wood

First of all, hearings are expensive. The average hearing would cost about £5,000 to each side if they are represented (they don't have to be but it's not unheard of for big employers to spend £2,000 per day on a barrister alone). So it's always cheaper to settle first.

Another thing to bear in mind is how long the employee has worked for the firm, whether they have been warned before about the conduct and whether they have a reason that might explain it, eg disability. Basic fairness. I haven't read this judgment (yet) but I would hope that they treated this person fairly and considered whether a lesser punishment would suffice. Knee-jerk reactions do not normally impress tribunals. Discrimination is inferred if you treat a person less favourably than you do the rest of your staff and they have a "protected" characteristic (race, gender, etc). If you treat all your staff badly it's not discrimination (but that's not a good idea anyway).

Finally, in employment tribunals each side normally pays their own cost. It is possible though under the rules to win your case (or succesfully defend it) and still have costs awarded. Costs are awarded in about 1% of ET cases.

An employee might be covered for representation under their insurance policy. I took a claim recently against an employer (who offered me my job back during the proceedings "for a joke") and it cost over £18,000 in fees. I didn't have to pay a penny and the case is now before the Court of Appeal.

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@Hairy Airey

You're quite right, I'm being simplistic. Apologies. For an employer, a tribunal should be an absolute last resort - it gets you bad publicity (as this has), it costs a fortune, and it takes lots of people out of the business for quite a lot of time. There are massive disincentives for an employer to go to tribunal, it is, as you say, much cheaper to settle first.

However, I can also see - as I remarked in my post - that there'd be a strong argument for letting it go to a tribunal if you think that this is going to be the thin end of a wedge. If you let one of 'em get away with it, the argument would go, then they'll all be at it. So deal with it firmly, defend it strongly, and then we won't have to do it again. That could be a persuasive argument.

I understand the fairness/discrimination arguments (as I remarked in a previous post, I'm strongly in favour of rights for disadvantaged groups as well as for everyone) I was just not mentioning them as I assumed they didn't apply here (if they had, my reasoning went, then the tribunal wouldn't have upheld the dismissal and we'd be having a very different conversation).

Yes, I was hasty in my comment about costs. When I wrote "you will be landed with costs", I did mean your OWN costs, not the opposition's, but I accept that it wasn't what I wrote.

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TRT
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Devil

Facebook is evil.

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Anonymous Coward

Released from the Apple walled garden ^h^h^h prison

Lets hope the ex-employee takes advantage of his free speech position now to dish some real dirt on Apple.

And hopefully start a boycott of Apple products.

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Thanks for the clarification Pete

Yes, it's an expensive business going to court. The case that I referred to that cost £18,000 included the statement that I was dismissed because I would not "fit in". (This was a job with Cancer Research which is how I found out about the Petryk case). I have been diagnosed with Aspergers and Bipolar Affective Disorder, but their view was that even if they had known that they would still have sacked for (as the judgement puts it) failing to follow management instructions. However, difficulties in understanding instructions are part of the disability so basically I was sacked for having a disability. The judgement is appallingly bad they got so many facts wrong on the evidence before them it should have been thrown out at appeal. This is why I've taken it as far as the Court of Appeal and will take it to the European Court of Justice if necessary.

The court service has decided that I'm not disabled (what do they know?) and basically treat me as if I am unemployable. They haven't given any consideration to disability.

As for publicity, I have struggled to get press interest in tribunal cases. Even though the charity sector is infected with bullies like a disease, the press don't seem to give a toss. Which is a shame because there's a veritable gold mine of news out there that doesn't involve hacking phones. It seems that unless it's in London or involves a celebrity you won't hear about it.

The IT angle? I asked a colleague to upgrade firmware on a blade enclosure on HP's advice, and two hours later I was suspended while they found reasons to sack me. For example, making an appointment with Occupational Health was considered misconduct.

This happened within two days of telling my manager that I'd had mental health problems (my current employer knows about this but they seem to be very good employers they haven't been taken to tribunal in the last three years according to the public record).

This took place three years ago but it still hurts, mostly because I expect better of a so called civilised nation.

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