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UK tribunal upholds Apple's firing of retail employee for critical Facebook post

post #1 of 32
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A British Employment Tribunal has upheld Apple's decision to dismiss a retail store employee who violated company policy by posting derogatory comments about his employer on the Facebook social networking site.

The employee, named Crisp, lodged a complaint with the tribunal after he was fired for gross misconduct when negative posts to a private Facebook page were passed along to the Apple Store manager by a coworker. Though Crisp had argued that the dismissal was unfair because the messages were private, the tribunal decided that the communication was not protected because friends could have easily copied and shared it.

Also at issue was whether Apple's social media policy prohibiting "commentary on Apple products, or critical remarks about the brand," was valid, as noted by People Management. Report author Jamie Hamnett, an employment partner at law firm Addleshaw Goddard LLP, wrote that the tribunal upheld Apple's policy partly because its brand and image are central to its success.

"[Crisp] retained his right to freedom of expression under Article 10, but Apple successfully argued that it was justified and proportionate to limit this right in order to protect its commercial reputation against potentially damaging posts," the report said.

ifoAppleStore noted that Apple does allow employees to post on the Internet, but forbids employees from mentioning the company's name or their employment at Apple.

Apple has in the past faced numerous legal complaints from employees over alleged unfair dismissals and discrimination. For instance, earlier this year, a former employee at an Apple Store in St. Louis, Mo., accused Apple of race and gender discrimination. Late last year, the company also received complaints of age discrimination and alleged unfair treatment of an employee with a medical condition.

According to Apple's most recent 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, 36,000 of its 60,400 full-time employees work at its retail stores. As of the end of the September quarter, the iPhone maker had a total of 357 stores worldwide.

News of the tribunal's decision comes as Apple's retail business appears to have been left without a leader. Former Apple senior vice president of retail Ron Johnson left the company on Nov. 1 to be come the new CEO at retailer J.C. Penney. Apple quickly removed his name and picture from its list of executive profiles without adding a replacement.

Johnson had played a pivotal role in setting up the Apple Store model. Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs hired him away from Target in 2000 to help launch the company's retail division.

The company said earlier this year that it was "actively recruiting" for Johnson's successor. Apple even reportedly turned to an executive headhunting firm to take its search overseas.
post #2 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The employee, named Crisp, lodged a complaint with the tribunal after he was fired for gross misconduct when negative posts to a private Facebook page were passed along to the Apple Store manager by a coworker. Though Crisp had argued that the dismissal was unfair because the messages were private, the tribunal decided that the communication was not protected because friends could have easily copied and shared it.

"Crisp" lost the "it's private" argument fast because of how his manager found out. Worked just like the Tribunal described.

Heck, forwarding of anything you email or post on the Internet can get passed around *fast*. Even when posting under my alias, I'm still careful.
post #3 of 32
Wow. No wonder we get so much positive feedback from employees at Apple stores... who would dare say something negative!
post #4 of 32
Sounds like the system actually worked right for a change. Making derogatory public statements about your employer is stupid. (and, yes, a "private" Facebook page that your friends can see is public).
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post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post

Wow. No wonder we get so much positive feedback from employees at Apple stores... who would dare say something negative!

Wow. A disgruntled employee is in a condition of doubt and needs to decide which side of the fence he or she is to be on. Can't have it both ways.

Employees of any company are team members and don't deserve the position or pay if they're "rowing in the opposite direction" from the rest of the team.

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post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post

Wow. No wonder we get so much positive feedback from employees at Apple stores... who would dare say something negative!

Don't be so cynical.

These social media policies are pretty standard. I work for a Fortune 500 company and we're bound by the same kind of rules. Strictly speaking, we're not allowed to comment (positively or negatively) about The Company's products or services if we identify ourselves as affiliated with The Company, except when we are acting in our job function to (for example, Media Relations or a salesperson).

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post #7 of 32
Mr. Crispy fried brains apparently doesn't realize how the whole freedom of speech thing works.
post #8 of 32
He's learning.

Slowly.

And at great expense.
post #9 of 32
Friends could repeat something the (former) employee said to them privately? That is the rationale? It's scary enough that someone could be fired for private comments, but that a court would judge against them is downright terrifying.

Maybe 1984 wasn't like 1984, but it's looking like 2011 is.
post #10 of 32
Correct.

You could rob a bank and tell your friends. If they rat you out, you will know that you have chosen your friends poorly.

In this case, I don't know who is the bigger idiot: the fired retail employee or his friend. Regardless, he has lost both an employer and a friend. In terms on knowing when to keep your mouth shut, this is an unmitigated FAIL. Hopefully he can recover and get a job sweeping floors at the local Tesco.
post #11 of 32
Freedom of speech doesn't stop with Facebook. However, freedom to talk about your boss, thats now wrong. So if we disagree with our boss we either have to quit our job or keep our mouth shut. It sounds like some middle eastern country. Or maybe a communist country. If the boss didn't like it then big deal as long as the employee does his job, so what. The employee was not a billionaire who could have hired the best legal group in the world to fight a principle matter. Apple has really good lawyers. Where is the balance in that.
An Apple man since 1977
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post #12 of 32
More and more people these days are turning to social media to vent their frustration. Most times, their venting borders on stupidity. They shout from their soap box, or the hill-tops, and totally ignore any consequences.



This idea of publicly shaming a company, a group, or an individual is arrogance at its finest. I for one don't feel sorry for Crisp. If he didn't like his job anymore, he should have left and found a new one instead of venting like a 13-year old child.
post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

Freedom of speech doesn't stop with Facebook. However, freedom to talk about your boss, thats now wrong. So if we disagree with our boss we either have to quit our job or keep our mouth shut. It sounds like some middle eastern country. Or maybe a communist country. If the boss didn't like it then big deal as long as the employee does his job, so what. The employee was not a billionaire who could have hired the best legal group in the world to fight a principle matter. Apple has really good lawyers. Where is the balance in that.

I don't think I see it the way you do. I don't think that the problem was that he was complaining about his boss--if he had been saying "my boss is a jerk yada yada..." or even "my boss, Mr. Smith yada yada..." there would not have been a issue. I think the problem was that he was complaining about APPLE. He lost his job because the damage he could do to the brand. If he doesn't understand that, I don't blame Apple for not wanting to give him money.

You say "as long as he does his job, so what." I say his job is to help Apple sell products. How is blasting Apple online in line with that? Do you also believe that an employee has a free speech right to stand outside his place of employment (after work) and tell people not to shop there?
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post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post

I don't think I see it the way you do. I don't think that the problem was that he was complaining about his boss--if he had been saying "my boss is a jerk yada yada..." or even "my boss, Mr. Smith yada yada..." there would not have been a issue. I think the problem was that he was complaining about APPLE. He lost his job because the damage he could do to the brand. If he doesn't understand that, I don't blame Apple for not wanting to give him money.

You say "as long as he does his job, so what." I say his job is to help Apple sell products. How is blasting Apple online in line with that? Do you also believe that an employee has a free speech right to stand outside his place of employment (after work) and tell people not to shop there?

I some what agree. I also say that Facebook is not a store front. We have not heard a huge fall out from his Facebook posting. Such as CNN saying "Apple Employee causes a stir sales drop". We didn't hear nothing because of the Facebook posting. The reason why is because it was a personal Facebook post. He didn't go to Apple's Facebook posting http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2204622626 and say Apple sucks. So this became a personal issues between Apple and an employee of Apple Store. I would bet that if he worked for Google and dissed Google he would have not been fired.

I love Apple products. I am one of those people that loved it when I first used them in 1977. But I don't like big companies wielding their billion dollar inertia onto little people who maybe either made a mistake (spur of the moment) or purposely said negative things about their employer. My final point is to the employee. If I found out that he did this and I was his boss I would have given him a choice. Try to work out the issue that made him post on Facebook or ask him to quit his job since it was rather evident that he was not happy being employed with apple. If I was to fire him it would be because he was performing his physical and verbal duties as an Apple employee.
An Apple man since 1977
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post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

I some what agree. I also say that Facebook is not a store front. We have not heard a huge fall out from his Facebook posting. Such as CNN saying "Apple Employee causes a stir sales drop". We didn't hear nothing because of the Facebook posting. The reason why is because it was a personal Facebook post. He didn't go to Apple's Facebook posting http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2204622626 and say Apple sucks. So this became a personal issues between Apple and an employee of Apple Store. I would bet that if he worked for Google and dissed Google he would have not been fired.

I love Apple products. I am one of those people that loved it when I first used them in 1977. But I don't like big companies wielding their billion dollar inertia onto little people who maybe either made a mistake (spur of the moment) or purposely said negative things about their employer. My final point is to the employee. If I found out that he did this and I was his boss I would have given him a choice. Try to work out the issue that made him post on Facebook or ask him to quit his job since it was rather evident that he was not happy being employed with apple. If I was to fire him it would be because he was performing his physical and verbal duties as an Apple employee.

The problem is that Facebook is not private. It's public, anybody can see you page and your postings. If he had stormed out of the Apple store and shouted "Apple sucks" or something like it he would still be fired and the employer would be right to do so. There is a right way and a wrong way to take up issues you have with the company you work for. When you do it the wrong way there are repercussions.

I work for a company a big fortune 500 one and I see stuff every day that I don't like, but I don't post about them on Facebook, I have a better way I find way to make my point, by doing things their way and then offering my solution when things go bad. It works out pretty well. I have been promoted every year since I started and am well on my way to getting to where I might be able to really fix the problems. Public ranting does not get this done.

If this was a letter sent or even a e-mail from him to the friend he would not get fired. He however decided to post it in public where both he and his employer were both known. I would have fired him too, not for going against the company, but expecting a paycheck and then defaming my company.
post #16 of 32
Briefly:

1. The issue of "friends" is critical because Facebook Friends are not Real Friends. Nothing illustrates this better than this case.

2. Was "Apple" specifically identified as his employer in his comments? Rather than say, "CompanyX". If so, then in the context of FaceBook Friends it's pretty much public defamation as an employee if you go on FaceBook saying "my name is Joe Social and I hate working for Apple", "private" or not. As we know Facebook doesn't really care about user experience consistency and they change everything all the time. So suddenly what you thought was private becomes public. This has happened repeatedly in the past.

3. In any case, there must be some sort of independent, confidential arbitrator if there are causes for concern, employer misconduct and so on, before reaching out to any media or filing a lawsuit. I hope that this is continually looked into to balance out corporate power.

4. Of course, industrial relations and workplace laws must also continue to be monitored. That's what makes Bernanke's recent "USA could learn from China" so sickening. Asian work standards are absolutely disgusting... I'm not saying Foxconn, even in Malaysia citizens can work in as abusive a condition as faced by illegal foreign workers. Only difference of course is that you're cleaning up Excel files instead of toilets. Hours worked remain the same. 50, 60 hours a week with no overtime pay, working on weekends, and in Malaysia no overtime pay is mandated by government regulation if you are earning over "average wage" which is the equivalent of $10,000 USD a year. That's right. Think of it this way. You're earning $11,000 USD a year and the employer can ask you to work 10 hour days including weekends and no overtime pay is given. I'm obviously simplifying things, I leave it to non-expatriates working in Asia to share the nitty-gritty details.

5. Airing grievances publicly is one thing, but the thing I would be more concerned about at any workplace in any country is the actual recourse for reaching a solution internally, escalating to an arbitrator, and then workplace laws.
post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

But I don't like big companies wielding their billion dollar inertia onto little people who maybe either made a mistake (spur of the moment) or purposely said negative things about their employer.

When all is said and done, I suspect that we might agree more than we disagree. However, for the sake of discussion, I offer two points:

I don't think the only way to look at this is as Megacorp VS. Littleguy. People all over lose their jobs nowadays for "mistakes or spur of the moment" rants. I am a teacher and I live with the knowledge that any slip-up could be my job. Facebook and even sites like this are a minefield and I have to be mindful before I post anything. A guy working for Apple has less to worry about than I do!

Also, as a former employer, the first thing that comes to mind (though I know nothing more than what was in the article) is that the reported post might have been a "last straw" or even just the "paper reason" this guy was fired. Maybe he was a bad employee but clearly litigious. When you need to fire someone like that, it is important to have a very simple, clear-cut case. Bad attitude or bad for employee morale or bad customer interaction are all good reasons to fire someone, but they are amorphous and hard to define and prove. An against company policy FB post, however, is cut and dry (even if it is not the real reason). In this situation, giving the employee a chance to work it out is beside the point...
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post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Don't be so cynical.

These social media policies are pretty standard. I work for a Fortune 500 company and we're bound by the same kind of rules. Strictly speaking, we're not allowed to comment (positively or negatively) about The Company's products or services if we identify ourselves as affiliated with The Company, except when we are acting in our job function to (for example, Media Relations or a salesperson).

So if you have a private conversation with a friend about your company, and then that friend tells your boss, you can get fired?

Do you actually stick to this rule? e.g. if you're sitting at a dinner party and someone asks you "how is work going?" you actually answer "Sorry. I'm not allowed to comment".
post #19 of 32
Ok was the man ordered to post an apology? No.

Was the man ordered to contact Facebook and request to remove the post? No.

Did we all hear about a man causing Apple to lose face over a Facebook Post? No.

Did he get sued over the post on Facebook? No.

Did CNN, BBC, FOX News, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News and any other news company air that Apple was in big trouble because of one persons negative Facebook post about his boss? No.

Google I hate apple. See how many hits comes up. About 95,900,000 results. Google I hate Microsoft. About 21,900,000 results. Big difference huh?

Was the man wrong for what he did? Some say yes and some say no. But who was hurt in the long run? The guy who posted it on Facebook.

I guess it comes down to Company discretion. I would think that a contract should be signed when you get hired at an Apple store. Part of it with should say that in no way will you publicly ridicule Apple. After all you are a sales man.

I find it hard to not think of the little guy. And I would bet that he did cross the line and yes the Apple store in question may have tried to work with him. Maybe the guy is a real a#@ Hole. Maybe he's not. We really don't have all the facts as to what exactly he said on Facebook.

But one thing is for sure. Apple didn't suffer from this. Their rep is intact. One lone man on Facebook takes on Apple. Apple loses terribly. Not a chance.

So we really have quite a blog going here. Nice to see all the input. Cheers.
An Apple man since 1977
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post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

1. The issue of "friends" is critical because Facebook Friends are not Real Friends. Nothing illustrates this better than this case.

Personally all my Facebook friends are real friends.

Facebook is the best way to keep in contact with friends once everyone starts moving around the country and the world.
post #21 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

But one thing is for sure. Apple didn't suffer from this. Their rep is intact. One lone man on Facebook takes on Apple. Apple loses terribly. Not a chance.


Actually it's more subtle than that. He broke a term of his contract so was dismissed for gross misconduct.

The tribunal have to balance his right to free speech against Apple's right to protect their brand.

However Apple do not have to show any actual loss - only that it is reasonable to restrict employees in this way.
post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardM View Post

Actually it's more subtle than that. He broke a term of his contract so was dismissed for gross misconduct.

The tribunal have to balance his right to free speech against Apple's right to protect their brand.

However Apple do not have to show any actual loss - only that it is reasonable to restrict employees in this way.


If material harm is not shown or personal attacks, how can any none work location related restriction be deemed unreasonable then? Ummm if you work at Apple, you cannot wear blue at home. Why? People know you work at Apple, and blue is Google, therefor you are disparaging Apple. Yes it is stupid. But not a much further than no private blogging.

If this person went on a CNN etc blog and was stupid enough to spout off AND ITS FALSE or company proprietary information etc that's one thing. But spouting off in personal blog to a hand full of people..., yes 1984 is here.

Be careful what you wish for.... Slippery slope.
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post #23 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post

Personally all my Facebook friends are real friends.

Facebook is the best way to keep in contact with friends once everyone starts moving around the country and the world.

No worries, I think you're the exception. Let me guess, you have no more than 150 on your Friends list? (Not saying you don't have friends, I'm estimating the range).

There are people out there who regularly have 500-2000+ "Friends". These are the people who have a lot of FaceBook Friends, and maybe not as much Real Friends.

Those with less than 500 "Friends" lean more towards having mostly Real Friends. Still, even just 200 "Friends" means that's about 100 Real Friends and the rest acquaintances.

Maybe I'm stodgy and old, but at only 33 I was blown away when my ex-girlfriend was so into Facebook and then kept complaining to me she didn't have a single real friend to lean on in her time of need.

I have several "real" friends who I communicate with via email. Twitter is rare, and Facebook is more like a generic social networking thing especially with colleagues. Ironically colleagues love Facebook so they can share non-work-related stuff during work time. If they are specifically complaining about the company or someone else though, they use IM.

I'm not into social media. It has its uses, but it's way, way overblown. I mean, we've got email, Twitter, phone, SMS, WhatsApp, FaceBook, LinkedIn... Plus all sorts of instant messaging, and yet people are saying (now another girl at my office... [yes I seem to attract that type]) was saying how she's feeling so alone.

Freud and Nietzsche would love to be live in this digital age.
post #24 of 32
Also, I've hidden everybody's status updates. That's because for a while tons of people kept posting NSFW stuff, especially gruesome accident/death pics and videos. Somehow, in Asia, there's less of a taboo sharing that among younger generations, and more disturbingly, they don't seem to care about it. They'd happily post a suicide/ accident/ death pic or video but rarely anything sexually provocative.
post #25 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The employee, named Crisp, lodged a complaint with the tribunal after he was fired for gross misconduct when negative posts to a private Facebook page were passed along to the Apple Store manager by a coworker.

No wonder he was making derogatory comments if he's got co-workers like this one.
post #26 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

No wonder he was making derogatory comments if he's got co-workers like this one.

I would have fired the snitch.
post #27 of 32
On January 13th this year I had a major spat with my head of department. On the 17th I subsequently took 6 months sick leave on full pay. The day I went off sick I closed my Facebook Account to avoid any temptation to 'diss' my employer. I've never reactivated it.

Instead we engaged in a game of email chess. Trying to outmanoeuvre each other with dialectics. I returned to work in July having achieved Checkmate. They have kept well away from me since my return.
post #28 of 32
If you don't protect your reputation. YOU LOOSE IT. Just like patent rights. Defend it ALL or loose it all!!!! Whiners and complainers should look elsewhere to be content with their job.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

Ok was the man ordered to post an apology? No.

Was the man ordered to contact Facebook and request to remove the post? No.

Did we all hear about a man causing Apple to lose face over a Facebook Post? No.

Did he get sued over the post on Facebook? No.

Did CNN, BBC, FOX News, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News and any other news company air that Apple was in big trouble because of one persons negative Facebook post about his boss? No.

Google I hate apple. See how many hits comes up. About 95,900,000 results. Google I hate Microsoft. About 21,900,000 results. Big difference huh?

Was the man wrong for what he did? Some say yes and some say no. But who was hurt in the long run? The guy who posted it on Facebook.

I guess it comes down to Company discretion. I would think that a contract should be signed when you get hired at an Apple store. Part of it with should say that in no way will you publicly ridicule Apple. After all you are a sales man.

I find it hard to not think of the little guy. And I would bet that he did cross the line and yes the Apple store in question may have tried to work with him. Maybe the guy is a real a#@ Hole. Maybe he's not. We really don't have all the facts as to what exactly he said on Facebook.

But one thing is for sure. Apple didn't suffer from this. Their rep is intact. One lone man on Facebook takes on Apple. Apple loses terribly. Not a chance.

So we really have quite a blog going here. Nice to see all the input. Cheers.
post #29 of 32
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post #30 of 32
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post #31 of 32
The case isnt specific to Apple: my employer has the same set of rules, which I believe are pretty common in tech companies. I cant comment publicly on my companys products (no matter what comments that may be) unless my job is to do so (it isnt).

So, it all comes down to the question whether this man has broken terms of contract by privately publishing this info, and the court apparently decided that he has.

Why anyone discussing this case at all? Simple:

1. This is Apple.
2. Those were negative comments.

Aha, evil tyranny strikes again! Good click magnet. And for those people who really want to know what it is like working at Apple you can freely google up stories of ex employees preferably the ones who left the company on their own. The rest is free to keep believing that Apple image as a company worth working for is achieved only through the total control over their employed slaves.
post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by boeyc15 View Post

If material harm is not shown or personal attacks, how can any none work location related restriction be deemed unreasonable then? Ummm if you work at Apple, you cannot wear blue at home. Why? People know you work at Apple, and blue is Google, therefor you are disparaging Apple. Yes it is stupid. But not a much further than no private blogging.

If this person went on a CNN etc blog and was stupid enough to spout off AND ITS FALSE or company proprietary information etc that's one thing. But spouting off in personal blog to a hand full of people..., yes 1984 is here.

Be careful what you wish for.... Slippery slope.

In UK employment law there is an over-arching requirement of reasonableness. It would not be reasonable to dismiss for wearing blue at home and in any event I cannot see that this breaches the contractual term which the tribunal would interpret (if there was a lack of clarity) in favour of the employee. It probably would be reasonable to dismiss for publicly denigrating your employer.
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