UK says Apple unfairly fired worker who took secret photos of a colleague

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A UK employment court has ruled that Apple must pay compensation to an employee it dismissed over alleged harassment of a female colleague.

Inside Apple's UK headquarters at the iconic Battersea Power Station (source: Apple)
Inside Apple's UK headquarters at the iconic Battersea Power Station (source: Apple)



The incident took place at Apple's London Battersea site, which is home to the company's UK headquarters as well as an Apple Store. Process analyst Christoph Sieberer took two photos of a woman and shared them with a male colleague who was said to have a crush on her, according to The Telegraph.

One image was of the woman talking with colleagues, while another was taken from three floors above her in a communal area. In response to receiving the images, the male colleague reported only as Thomas, replied "that's my girl."

He also responded: "Look at bae there... so cute... working her a-- off but still looking great."

That colleague, reported only as Thomas, later showed one of the images to another woman at Apple. She informed her manager, and following an investigation, Apple dismissed both Thomas and Sieberer for sexual harassment.

Now a UK Employment Tribunal has ruled that Apple fired Sieberer unfairly. Judge N. Walker said that "there were no reasonable grounds" for the dismissal, and there was no evidence that anyone who saw the photos had been offended.

It's not clear on what basis Judge Walker concluded that the woman who reported the images was not offended by them. The judge did further criticize Apple's harassment policies as being "vague."

Judge Walker ruled that while taking the photos was "arguably an invasion of privacy... this is a world in which there are cameras in all sorts of locations." The ruling does say that the photographs should not have been taken.

Sieberer has reportedly conceded that he should not have taken the photos. Apple will now be required to pay damages of an amount that the tribunal will set at a future date.

It's not known what those damages will be, but the ruling has made one unclear comment concerning the amount.

The court ruling describes Apple has having wanted to reduce Sieberer's typical compensation by 100%, presumably meaning it would pay him nothing. The court says instead that his pay should be reduced by 10%.

It does not appear that the ruling requires Apple to re-hire Sieberer, so the implication is that damages will to some measure be tied to his previous salary. There is no mention of damages being owed to Thomas.

Apple has not commented publicly on this ruling. During the case, it did tell the tribunal that it had changed its policies over harassment following over a dozen complaints from women.

It's not known which specific complaints those were, but in 2021, the #AppleToo movement began publishing accounts of harassment. In the first four days of its call for such reports, the movement received over 500.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,464member
    It's never appropriate to take photos of colleagues and show personal interest like that at workplace. It is just not professional although it's clear no harm was intended but it's not a proper protocol. How the judge concluded that Apple should pay even though he acknowledged "invasion of privacy" is mind boggling.
    edited July 8 12StrangersdewmetmayOferstrongywatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 8
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,111member
    netrox said:
    It's never appropriate to take photos of colleagues and show personal interest like that at workplace. It is just not professional although it's clear no harm was intended but it's not a proper protocol. How the judge concluded that Apple should pay even though he acknowledged "invasion of privacy" is mind boggling.
    No harm done until he does something? An employer (Apple) can't take that risk on something like this if it becomes known to them before hand. He probably should have been fired with nothing coming other than two weeks pay. Unfortunate.....
    edited July 8 tmayOferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 8
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,903member
    danox said:
    netrox said:
    It's never appropriate to take photos of colleagues and show personal interest like that at workplace. It is just not professional although it's clear no harm was intended but it's not a proper protocol. How the judge concluded that Apple should pay even though he acknowledged "invasion of privacy" is mind boggling.
    No harm done until he does something? An employer (Apple) can't take that risk on something like this if it becomes known to them before hand. He probably should have been fired with nothing coming other than two weeks pay. Unfortunate.....
    Things aren't as black and white as you seem to imply. 

    We obviously don't have all the information or the background information about the people involved.

    I would never fire someone for this kind of mistake, at least at face value. A meeting with all involved and try to work something out. Everyone can make this kind of stupid mistake. 

    It might be different if the people involved already had a record of wrongdoing but we don't have that info. 

    I imagine the judge was trying see the bigger picture and taking into account information we obviously don't have. 
    muthuk_vanalingamsedicivalvoleForumPost
  • Reply 4 of 8
    Indeed, on the surface it looks like an odd choice. But there will be quite a bit of information we are not aware of I’m sure 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 8
    mfrydmfryd Posts: 217member
    It is likely that Apple has security cameras all over the facility.   It is to be expected that every employee is being photographed throughout the day.  Thus this is likely not an invasion of privacy issue, as employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

    It is interesting to note that in this case, the woman was not aware that she was being "harassed."   I don't think this falls into the traditional definition of "harassment".  I am not saying the behavior is acceptable, just that it seems to be something other than traditional harassment.

    While I am not familiar with UK law, in the USA, companies have a lot of latitude in their employee policies.  In the USA, Apple would be allowed to place various restrictions on what employees can photograph while on duty or while in an Apple facility.   
  • Reply 6 of 8
    Depending on the circumstances, if this had happened in the U.S. and the woman found out what happened and that Apple knew and did nothing, it would leave them open to a suit.  I suspect Apple was operating under those assumptions.
    danox
  • Reply 7 of 8
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,111member
    Depending on the circumstances, if this had happened in the U.S. and the woman found out what happened and that Apple knew and did nothing, it would leave them open to a suit.  I suspect Apple was operating under those assumptions.

    Particularly if something bad were to happen down the road to the person (woman) photographed without their consent or knowledge, who in this bad scenario has the deep pockets and would be castrated in the media (Apple)? Do this on the job most companies would write up or fire the person on the spot why? Would you stand up for a creep after all this is a place of work not a high school playground.
    edited July 9 beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 8 of 8
    danox said:
    Depending on the circumstances, if this had happened in the U.S. and the woman found out what happened and that Apple knew and did nothing, it would leave them open to a suit.  I suspect Apple was operating under those assumptions.

    Particularly if something bad were to happen down the road to the person (woman) photographed without their consent or knowledge, who in this bad scenario has the deep pockets and would be castrated in the media (Apple)? Do this on the job most companies would write up or fire the person on the spot why? Would you stand up for a creep after all this is a place of work not a high school playground.

    Exactly.  "Yeah, we knew her stalker took pictures without her knowledge or consent, but we didn't think anything of it..."  would not work very well in court.

    It sounds rather like another "Apple needs to be punished for being Apple; let's make something up" situation.
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