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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Apple products lick the salty sweat off ancient crinkley donkey balls.

    1. Richard Scratcher

      Apple products lick the salty sweat off ancient crinkley donkey balls.

      Not my words, I'm just quoting someone who posted this on the web. I think he/she might work for Apple.

      1. Anonymous Coward 15

        Apple products lick the salty sweat off ancient crinkley donkey balls.

        Is there an echo in here?

      2. zen1

        You sir...

        owe me a new keyboard!

    2. My backside


      ... you do!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Stand-up comedians must live in fear of your audience participation.

  2. Benny
    Thumb Down

    So someone printed something out, and someone else got fired for it?

    How can you get fired because someone said that you said something!?

    Couldnt he have just deleted it from his wall, then complained that the other person was setting him up?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not too difficult to forge a print out

      Seems like a simple matter to get just about any Apple employee fired.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      He *could* have deleted it from his wall but the evidence was there in paper form for all to see!

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. I'm not sleeping...

      Bad idea...

      I don't know the laws in the UK, but in most countries it is a crime to lie to a court or to a policeman... if he had done that, the court would have asked facebook to check if it was true or not and he would have bigger problems!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But Apple couldn't have fired him if he claimed he didn't post the comments. All they had was a printout. Even if he lied to Apple about it, they wouldn't have grounds for dismissal.

        If they did fire him, and he sued, he'd have to admit to the court that he had posted the comments, and lied to Apple about that, but Apple would still be in trouble for sacking him without sufficient justification - they didn't know about the lie at the time the sacked him.

    5. David Neil

      I know a bloke who got binned from a local authority job recently for some of the things he posted on facebook.

      To be fair it was pics of him "planking" on top of someones kitchen cupboards. Again a colleague showed it to the boss and he was binned within 48hrs.

  3. jbuk1

    "someone could have copied and pasted" therefore it's public.

    Hearsay anyone? Burden of proof that he posted the comment? etc etc. Someone could always repeat something I said down the pub it doesn't not make it hearsay.

    1. Pete Wood
      Thumb Up

      => Hearsay anyone? Burden of proof that he posted the comment?

      You're confusing civil and criminal law here. Criminal law - yes, proof beyond reasonable doubt. Civil law - what's reasonable.

      Based only on what I've read in Hamnett's commentary, there was no argument submitted to the effect that he denied making the comments, so the question doesn't arise. Apple's policy clearly stated he should not rubbish the brand; he did so, deliberately, in a semi-public forum; that goes to the heart of the contract - gross misconduct, dismissal. Glad to see that Tribunals still have sense occasionally.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      This isn't a criminal case, it's an employment tribunal.

    3. N00

      If copy paste makes anything you say in social media public then surely that makes anything you say anywhere public with record and play or remember and repeat?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For once...

    ..I'm on Apple's side (probably the first and last time though :-)

    If it's in your 'acceptable use' policy that public adverse comments about your company on social media sites is considered gross misconduct - and the employee agreed to that policy by virtue of their employment contract - then they don't have a leg to stand on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      well ..

      .. it's clearly debatable as to whether this particular issue was "public". But, more generally, where are you going to draw the line on what limitations on your non-work life can be enforced in your employment contract? Thin end of the wedge, and all that ...

      1. Christoph

        Any time there's a job shortage, some managers start imposing draconian rules on employees. Because they can. Because they can get away with it.

        "If you don't want us to control what you do in your 'own' time then don't work here. No other jobs around? Tough."

    2. L1feless


      That is exactly the point here. He set the privacy settings to private, or at least restricted it to a small group of friends. This is at least the scenario which this article states.

      Frankly speaking your mind so long as it is factual and not just a load of crap should be included as nothing more than free speech.

    3. Velv
      Big Brother

      However is it a fair condition of the contract of employment?

      Is it really GROSS misconduct? Perhaps it could be a disciplinary item, but GROSS misconduct?

      Does the punishment really fit the crime. Clearly the tribunal thinks it did. I think they've set a dangerous precedent for employment T&Cs

      1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        It's actually a standard thing that if you publically criticise your employer, you can be done for Gross Misconduct, and I doubt that Apple are the first company to fire someone for gross misconduct for posting something on facebook.

        A friend of mine posted exactly what he thought of his employers and within two hours he was punished. On that occasion though, he was given a verbal warning.

        Personally, I think that as long as the terms and conditions of employment are fair to both parties (and I think it fair that either party can insist that the other party does not criticse them publically), I actually don't have a problem with either party saying "You read the rules, you agreed to and then broke them, you should suffer the results". Essentially what both Apple and the Tribunal have done.

        People also need to remember that while Facebook does offer privacy controls to limit other people's access to your area (wall, photos etc), other people can still read what you post, and they may not have your best interests at heart. This is exactly why what I post on Facebook actually contains very little important detail, and never (directly or indirectly) references who I work for.

      2. Armando 123

        Maybe not gross misconduct, but five will get you ten that this person was one of the more troublesome employees for that boss. It's very difficult to flat-out fire people these days, lawsuits being what they are, so often layoffs can act as a way to clear out people with much lower threat of legal action.

    4. Jonathon Green
      Big Brother

      "If it's in your 'acceptable use' policy that public adverse comments about your company on social media sites is considered gross misconduct..."

      Well, for a start "acceptable use" policies generally only apply to the use of company resources on company time, and secondly, to quote the article...

      "A striking feature of the case was that although the man's Facebook comments were not public - privacy settings had been applied - the judge decided because that the comments could be easily copied and pasted by his friends they did not attract any privacy protection."

      I find it slightly worrying that a judge would make that decision - if making comments in a private space on a social networking site can be interpreted as public behaviour where does it stop? Could the "copy and paste" argument be extended to private email?? Should Apple store employees be concerned that confiding to ones Significant Other in a moment of post-nookie relaxation that there might be an element of form over function in some Apple products and that the absence of removable battery packs could be a bit annoying might result in disciplinary action if said SO was to "hear and repeat" those views outside the house???

      1. Tom 13


        This case needs to be appealed. And I'm not the sort of person to often say that.

    5. Jedit Silver badge

      @AC 12:06

      The AUP prohibits adverse comments in public. Comments on your private wall are not public, any more than the content of an e-mail sent to a few friends is equivalent to sending a letter to the Times.

      On a scientific note: I find it interesting that as soon as you took Apple's side for the first and only time, you immediately turned into a kneejerking idiot who couldn't understand a simple concept like privacy. We already knew that mindless people are often known to support Apple, but is this the first evidence of a causal connection in the opposite direction - that the act of supporting Apple is enough to induce mindlessness in people who are at other times of normal intellectual capacity? An Ignobel beckons...

      1. Mick Sheppard

        Pot meet Kettle

        Emailing comments to friends could get you sacked too. It doesn't matter if your intention is only publish to a small number of friends you don't have control over them so the comments are in the public domain. In this sense the tribunal is following legal precedent.

        It might not have been the intention, but a lot of people these days don't understand the reach of electronic media or the concept that once something is out there they have no ability to get it back.

        Interestingly you finish with a mindless rant about people supporting Apple being mindless. Shouldn't all people and comments be judged on their merits? This isn't something that you appear to adhere to yourself inspite of condemming others for not doing so.

        1. AdamWill
          Thumb Down

          that seems wrong

          "Emailing comments to friends could get you sacked too. It doesn't matter if your intention is only publish to a small number of friends you don't have control over them so the comments are in the public domain. In this sense the tribunal is following legal precedent."

          Um. By that logic, a private letter isn't private because it can be photocopied. *any* form of communication can be reproduced, so are there no private communications, according to you?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For once...

      Fire the Judge: Apple should have lost this case on 'illegal contract' look it up, apple cannot enforce things you do in your private life....

      1. Matt 95

        Comprehension skills.

        You didn't read the article did you?

  5. Anonymous Coward 101
    Thumb Down

    What a snitch!

    The 'friend' was likely one of those girls at primary school who liked to tell teacher you had done something naughty.

    1. Armando 123

      And probably works in education or at a newspaper. Assuming anyone actually WORKS at a newspaper, ifyaknowwhatImean

      1. AdamWill


        no, the 'friend' worked at Apple too. I can see your disdain for education developed early, since you seem to have flunked reading comprehension.

  6. technome
    Thumb Up

    "Apple had in place a clear social media policy and stressed in their induction process that commentary on Apple products, or critical remarks about the brand were strictly prohibited."

    I've been to an Apple recruitment event. Their policy in this regard was outlined in very clear terms right at the start.

    Case closed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Case closed

      I think you will find that company policy != laws of the State (yet).

      The former can and very often do go well over what is legally enforceable, even in business-friendly courts such as the England's, for the strategic reason that they know most employees will not dedicate the considerable time and resources required to seek legal redress.

      As for this particular case, is there any indication whether the person affected is planning an appeal?

    2. Amonynous

      Sadly it does look like case closed, but it is a dreadful precedent to set.

      Where is the line to be drawn? If I disparage my employer in a private conversation and it is recorded by a 'friend' and put on line, would that be reason to dismiss me for bringing my employer in to disrepute? How about if they intercept my post or email, or rifle through my bins to gather evidence of my dissafection and miscreance?

      Some floppy haired Gen Y'er from a Shoreditch Roundabout startup clearly funded by Daddy's money was berating a bunch of us old fogey IT Directors over dinner at a recent conference, instead of going away to play with his Lego and leaving us to get quietly sozzled which is SOP at these events as any fule kno'.

      He was banging on about (amongst other things) how social media was the end of email as the main means of discourse, both for business and pleasure, just as email was the end of the postal letter. This ruling pretty much torpedoes such notions if it is left unchallenged.

      I really do think individuals (and corporate entities) should be allowed have a reasonable expectation of privacy when communicating via any non-public means, including messages sent to groups on social networking sites where they have explicity applied privacy settings to limit the distribution of the message.

      Of course an untrustworthy individual can betray a confidence by cutting, pasting and reposting your message, but then so could they forward a private email, or scan and upload a letter that you posted to them. I wonder what the ET's view on expectations of privacy are in those circumstances? I suspect that they would have reached a different conclusion entirely.

      After all, Bradly Mannup and Julian Asswhinge pulled off the biggest cut and paste job of private information of all time, and the courts are not taking a view along the lines of 'You stored your diplomatic cables on a computer in a bunker, and you expected them to stay secret? More fool you.'

      The Web was considered to be the wild west and beyond the reach of the law for a brief, utopian, period but the law rapidly caught up when it came to egregious criminal activity and loss of corporate profits (not that it is being particularly well enforced, but then you could say the same about burglary and car theft to be honest). I wonder when the law will actually get around to effectively addressing the legitimate right to privacy of the man on the Clapham omnibus?

      I'm not talking about the Data Protection act here. It's largely ignored by most businesses, or delgated to a dusty compliance department who issue policies and procedures but don't have the clout and resources to monitor and enforce them. It is pretty clear that many big businesses actively breach the DP Act in pursuit of profits, and the toothless regulator does not have the time or resources to do anything but make an example of a few of the most high profile cases.

      At the moment, governents the world over (and especially in the UK it seems) are desperately pushing us towards online services to cut costs and extert more control over their citizens by knowing who they are and what they are doing and saying. They also want us to embrace this technology in order to kick-start the dire UK (and World) economy. This wont' happen whilst we have no real way to control the privacy and distribution of our online information, and this case is a good example of the double standards currently being applied.

      What we actually need is a regulatory framework that protects and enables individuals to pursue businesses and individuals that breach their privacy or abuse their data in a far more straightforward and cost effective way. An individual fifty years ago might make a handful of transactions that could involve the legal system (marriage, property purchase, serious injury and death being about it for most), and only a few out of those cases would have justified coming before the courts or other legal apparatus.

      A legal system designed for that age is not fit for purpose in this brave new world. The vast majority of us would have multple causes to take action every single year due to the huge number of online interactions we have with individuals and corporations and the increasing level of (largely hidden) abuse that we are being subjected to.

    3. John Sturdy

      In case you needed any more reasons...

      This is yet another reason to neither work for Apple nor buy their products.

    4. goldcd

      My understanding is that you can put anything in the contract

      but just because it's in the employment contract doesn't make it enforceable.

      E.g. My employer could demand that on leaving their employee I hand over my first-born child. That can go into the contract, I can sign it, but no court is ever going to enforce that when I quit.

      More common example is where employers state you can't go to work for the competition when you leave - usually unenforcable due to over-riding laws on restriction of practice.

      I would have thought this would be a similar case - seemingly it isn't...

      Comment in the article about this not being covered as other people could print it out... surely the same logic should prevent you from saying anything where there was a possibility it could be recorded.

  7. NoneSuch Silver badge

    They left a word out...

    "but Apple successfully argued that it was justified and proportionate to limit this right in order to protect its commercial reputation against potentially damaging (private) posts."

    So even saying Apple product sucks in private is something to release the lawyers over. (Quiet tutting in the background)

    "And second because such comments would be particularly damaging for Apple as 'image is so central to its success'."

    Image is the only reason for Apple's success. That combined with a 40% mark-up.

    1. ffeog

      > Image is the only reason for Apple's success. That combined with a 40% mark-up.

      Lastly, they also need a pool of image-obsessed, money no object, me-too 'individuals' who believe they 'think different' to act as their market. Apple have milked them well, and they love it, so it is a match made in heaven. Although I'm prepared to admit some of Apple's products are quite good in themselves, and some Apple product owners are indeed rational, its their branding and marketing which mostly sets them apart.

  8. Ian Yates
    Thumb Down


    Bad precedence

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wow.


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    in the interests of balance

    and to encourage open-ness and transparency...

    who was snivelling, back-stabbing, arse-licking, self-serving, contemptible corporate drone who shopped him?

    1. Lallabalalla


      The one in casualty with the boot stuck up their arse I'm hoping.

    2. OldBiddie

      Be inclined to have gotten rid of the snivelling, back-stabbing, arse-licking, self-serving, contemptible corporate drone myself.

      Let's face it - if he's prepared to do that to a "friend" then he'd be prepared to do the same thing to anyone there, including his boss; especially to get up the next rung on the corporate ladder. Maybe that's simply the kind of culture Apple employees enjoy - "Be a company informer. Betray your colleagues & co-workers. Fabulous prizes to be won"

      His boss should definitely have checked the conversation wasn't being recorded.

      1. Gannon (J.) Dick
        Thumb Up


        it's always nice to have Sociopath Creds on the CV.

        It helps if an Employer wants to promote from within. Of course the same can be said of juvenile records of torturing small animals, but those are normally sealed.

    3. ravenviz Silver badge
      Big Brother

      That would have been one of his facebook friends....

  10. dcd

    Article 10

    You have it (the right) but commercial interests can cast it aside.

    Bad precident indeed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Article 10


      1. tonysmith



  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So does that mean

    If he used 'my employers' rather than 'Apple' when bitching then he would've been fine? Common sense when using social networking dictates

    Never mention who you work for.

    Don't add colleagues.

    It amazes me how many people don't do this.

    1. Nun of Thee Above

      only one problem with that. . .

      aren't FB lusers supposed to include employment details in their profile?

      Or is that "Linked-in" . . . dunno, 'cause I don't use either one.

      1. Rob

        Mixing it up...

        ...Linkedin is a social media channel based on businesses and colleagues and such like associations.

        Facebook is not so much that but it has been used for that by various employees, just to make it worse you can now get your FB to feed into your Linkedin profile (talk about setting your own minefield).

        So in short AC is bang on the nail, don't mention who you work for just be generic and refer to your 'employer'.

        It is worrying that the judge isn't being challenged on this but you do have to feel slightly pleased as someone has just been liberated from a cult :-P

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        FB and work details

        It's not required. You can make up a company and put that you work there. I think if you add the employer, then they have access to your page. One of the reasons why I don't have mine added.

    2. Swiss


      Never.. I mean N E V E R add current work colleagues to your social network of preference.

  12. Neonin

    Dearie me

    So in todays society the only right you have to privacy is if your comments remain in your own head. After all, you can't SAY them in another persons presence even if there's just two of you, cause they could use an iFail to record you saying it so you have no expectation of privacy!

    Case closed. Now all Apple has to do is figure out how to read minds and they'll be able to sue anyone who works for them who even THINKS something negative about their products. That's it, good Apple drones, spout the marketing drivel and don't you dare think bad things or be honest with yourself about the technology. There is NOTHING bad about Apple products... Nothing to see here.

    1. James O'Brien


      Knowing CrApple,

      "Now all Apple has to do is figure out how to read minds and they'll be able to sue anyone who works for them who even THINKS something negative about their products."

      They probably won't figure that out first but they will be patenting the technology years after someone already has. Once that is done they will most likely take each of their employees aside, put on the little hat and make sure they never EVER thought anything bad about the company just to make sure they are good little drones.

  13. bolccg

    Does this strike anyone else as a bit of a thought crime? For example, if he turned to his mates and said "I work in the store and I think XYZ is a bit rubbish" and one of them taped him and gave it to his boss, then would it be ok to fire him? Essentially this seems to be what he has done - he told some friends, not the world at large, his opinion. If he put it up on Twitter for everyone to see then I'd say it's probably ok to discipline him but private communication is a different kettle of fish. For example, if he sent this via e-mail rather than on Facebook, it seems that the same logic would apply.

    The freedom to have a conversation with your friends about what you really think seems to me to be sufficiently important to be protected by law. If he had taken steps to ensure that this facebook stuff was not generally available to the public, I think it should be protected speech.

  14. theblackhand

    In an ideal world...

    The judge would have issued closing remarks indicating that the dismissed employee no longer had to work with mindless, backstabbing scum in a workplace where drones appear to be all that is tolerated.

    Apple - the company that cares what you think and will do anything it legally can to ensure you only express Apple-friendly thoughts....

  15. KirstarK

    Need to take this higher as that is bullshit.

  16. A. Lewis
    Thumb Down


    Contract or no, the crux of this is whether or not the facebook posts were private. I personally don't think that the fact that a so-called friend can repeat something makes it public. And therefore I don't see how a work contract can apply to it.

    Another nail in the coffin of privacy, surely.

  17. g e

    I've got a printout here from a Farcebook page

    it reads:

    Apple products are overpriced shit and it's hilarious how we can bilk the slavering Pavlovian fanbois for cash at every single product rev. Plus we stole all our ideas from Samsung.

    Tim Cook

    ... here's hoping

  18. Simon B

    So working for apple means you can't have a PERSONAL opinion and share it PRIVATELY in YOUR OWN time, OUT OF WORK HOURS, if it's not a good opinion.

    If you work for apple you must love it and lick its arse, don't like a product? you're fired! WTF?!!

  19. Robinson
    Thumb Down

    The guy who snitched?

    What an a-hole.

  20. John Latham

    Disturbing decision

    I don't see how this is any different from someone getting fired because a "friend" blogs "Bob works for Apple and he told me 'iPads are shit'".

    That would be stupid. This is stupid.

  21. NogginTheNog

    Being honest with his customers?

    If he thinks Apple and Apple products are shit in private, do you really want to be buying stuff from him in the Apple Store..?

    1. g e

      Being honest with customers

      "Buy an iphone4s - the battery life is shit but we're working on it."

      Two. Way. Street.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Being honest with his customers?

      You mean, him saying one thing in "private" and another to his customers at the store? If it's by his own decision, no I wouldn't want to be buying from him. If it's against his wishes but giving in under pressure by his employer, I would buy from him on another occasion but not from his present employer.

      If on the other hand you mean him saying "don't buy this, it's shit", or "look I can sell you this for £XXXXX but you can get a better one from the competition around the corner for only £X", then I will definitely buy from him as I now know I'm dealing with a person of integrity who knows his market on top of it. And this is not purely hypothetical as the above are two real examples I've encountered.

    3. John Bailey


      If you think any sales assistant actually tells you what they feel about the products they sell you, they must see you coming a mile off.

      Shocking truth.. When the guy in the shop tells you he has the same one at home.. Her is very very likely lying to you.

  22. Gil Grissum


    This is why I haven't added anyone from my workplace to any of the social networks I'm on. In fact, this is why I haven't shared any social networking profile info with anyone at work. Just this sort of thing. I don't even share my cell phone number with co-workers and I don't allow them in my personal life, nor am involved in theirs. Work is separate from my personal life for exactly this reason and to prevent this kind of thing from happening.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3 months

    Say hi to the guy who's been suspended for 3 months due to private messages on facebook being printed out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hi idiot.

  24. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "Image is so central to its success"

    So does this precedence go for all companies or just the ones which are as control freaky as Apple?

    Judge must be a fanboi.

  25. Anonymous Coward 99

    The important thing about this is the new definition of "private". If something can be copied, made public and attributed to its original, then it is no longer private. At a second level, there is no expectation of privacy on people who have been given express permission to see your content

    I suggest this walks a coach and horses through any sense of privacy for ANY stored media - Wikileaks, anyone?

    Or is this a commentary that FarceBook privacy is not worth the paper you could print the T&Cs on?

  26. Anonymous Coward 15

    So how do you get through the Apple indoctrination^Winduction process without being a massive fanboi at the start or at least at the end?

  27. DLSmith

    Just maybe...

    People should learn not to post stuff on Facebook or any other social media that could get oneself fired. Especially when you work for someone like Apple.

    Jeez, learn to keep your mouth shut unless you like being unemployed.

  28. theBatman

    I've always thought that maybe...

    Regardless of privacy settings:

    1. I should only have my real friends on Facebook

    2. I shouldn't share anything that is private

    3. I shouldn't say anything if there are people wouldn't want to say it to.

    That way, not only will I never land myself in trouble but I'll also manage to keep a nice chunk of my life for myself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You'll also never say anything at all.

      No matter what you feel like saying, there is always somebody you won't want to say it to.

      For example, you might feel like saying "Qaddifi was a nasty dictator". However, you wouldn't want to say that to a Qaddafi supporter carrying an automatic weapon.

      How dare you imply that Facebook privacy settings aren't good enough! HEATHEN!!! BURN THE WITCH!

  29. fatchap


    So had Bradley Manning copied and pasted the telegrams and wires he sent to WIkileaks he would be in clear? The DoD should not have had any expectation of privacy because they let that happen?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best not gesture then

    Best not make any gestures here then otherwise (allegedly) you might get a copyright slapped upon you.I guess the laws of libelous comment weren't applied and that "Freedom of speech" is no longer a democratic right.

    These thoughts are entirely someones and someones alone.

    Anyone reading this must forget any comments made and MUST NOT under any circumstances copy, paste, print,comment,edit, refer to............etc etc anything that might or might not have been said here.

    Perhaps comments on "social sites should have "disclaimers"

    "This comment and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this comment in error please notify the webmaster of the page/site. This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this comment. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this comment by mistake and delete this comment from your system. If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited.You hereby undertake to delete all content from your own, and your computer/device's memory and also any associated backups."

  31. Atonnis


    ...this is a tough one to call, really.

    If Apple has indeed made it a part of their induction that negative comments posted publicly are grounds for dismissal, then the employee did indeed break the terms of employment and should get booted.

    On the other side of it, with privacy settings applied the person did not at any time make an attempt to publicly deride Apple, but was instead having a conversation with his private circle of friends.

    Of course, the reality is that any social networking site is a public space, and thus there is no real grounds to declare anything on there as private.

    We also don't know as to whether this guy is a 'true friends and family only' social networker, or if he's one of those people who 'friends' anyone he's ever met, talked to, or seen a picture of.

    Perhaps a real distinction needs to come in on social networking sites so accounts can be declared as strictly private or not (ie with non-repeatable comments), and as such be legally classed as private conversations.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Can the Ex-Apple chappy not sue the weasel who shopped him?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He was in the wrong, but ...

    If he signed a contract agreeing not to post comments about the company on social media and then did, he deserved what he got unfortunately. If he didn't like the rules, he should've got a job with a more reasonable company.

    What I have an issue with is:

    And second because such comments would be particularly damaging for Apple as "image is so central to its success".

    WTF? How is this an issue for Apple any more than it is for any other commercial entity in this country? When did the people running this tribunal get the right to make up a new set of rules for a particular company just because they think the company is cool? They are a tech company. That is all. If different rules are applied to Apple than to Sony, Panasonic or similar market sectors, the individuals responsible for this ruling should be out the door for gross misconduct as their personal brand preferences are having a serious impact on other peoples lives.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Not in the wrong

      I wouldn't be the first who's sent an e-mail to four or five friends slagging my own company off. Yet because he's sent it to four or five friends on Facebook as a non-public message after setting up his privacy settings he's out on his ear.

      There has to be a distinction between sending messages only to friends and sending public messages, just as there is between sending an e-mail to four or five people and spamming tonnes of e-mail addresses. It doesn't matter if Apple has a 'social media policy', the judge had the power to say that their social media policy was a load of hogwash when it concerns private messages and it was grounds for unfair dismissal.

      Where I agree with you is that he has even added that companies with a shiny corporate image to maintain should be afforded additional legal protection.

      He clearly hasn't understood the technology or as I said above he's a fanboi.

  34. Mystic Megabyte

    He had to lose, Apple have a patent on Blasphemy.

    1. Framitz

      And remember they also have a patent on hypocrisy.

  35. mark11727
    Big Brother

    I'd like to know what was in his original FB posting...

    I'm curious where Apple's threshold is for criticism falls. Somewhere between "...still having problems with the iPhone batteries, dammit."

    and "Apple products lick the salty sweat off ancient crinkley donkey balls!"

    Just curious.

  36. Olafthemighty

    What, no comment from Apple?

    That's unlike you guys!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I read...

    ....Tribunal rule Apple is so sh te, to make any comment about them/their brands, other than a positive one, would "damage" apple.

    WOW, just how weak? Mind you, you can't expect common sense from Apple or its affiliates.

  38. Neil 38

    Apple likes to control every other aspect of the media, so it's not surprising they want to control social media too.

  39. Armando 123


    This says nothing about FORMER employers ...

    In fact, if I told you about one particular former boss being an incompetent Ivy League with the social skills of a honey badger and all the classic behavior of a poorly-endowed prison b*tch, my former employers could do nothing about it. The former boss, OTOH, could sue, but the moment he took the stand I'd be proven right. In fact, if you talk to former coworkers, you could quickly find out just which company and which boss I'm talking about.

    I've generally liked my bosses -- it's part of how I weigh job offers -- but that one ...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shout something bad about your employer at a large gathering.

    If you get fired in this circumstance you only have yourself to blame. It is obvious that several people have done this without getting fired. Does that make them smart or lucky? No matter what your settings on facebook, you are amplifying your speech to a much larger crowd. If you are saying something on facebook and don't see it as the equivalent as speaking to a large crowd of people then you don't really understand what you are doing.

  41. g e
    Big Brother


    Wouldn't sacked guy have a case for intentional harm against lick-arse guy?

    The argument that sacked guy knew crapple's policy on free speech also applies to lick-arse guy as he'd have known this would cause trouble for sacked guy. Hence intent.

    Loss of earnings, emotional distress and costs, methinks.

    Hope sacked guy is reading.

  42. Pete Wood

    I can't believe some of the stuff I'm reading here

    I got thumbs-down for my previous posting, but hey, I can take it.

    I take the view that if I'm paid by my employer, then I represent my employer. If they stop paying me, and I don't want to work for them ever again, then I'm a free agent restrained only by the various libel/slander laws in my jurisdiction, but I don't for a minute expect to be able to slag them off in public and remain employed. My employer is a very good company to work for, as it happens, but the co-responsibility "deal" is quite clear and straightforward - I'm inside the tent, I don't slag them off, they don't slag me off, if we have difficulties then we settle them in private.

    This idea that seems to be pervading some posts in this thread, that we owe no duty of confidentiality to an employer, or only do so for 8 hours a day, is madness. No business can function on that basis. If you want to slag off a company, that's your right, it's a free (-ish) country, but you can't expect to take their money at the same time.

    And as for the stuff about Privacy, words fail me. 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 and should be used as a defence in this case? Get real, chaps, you can't have your cake and eat it.

    As someone commented here the other week - the facebook generation - the live-my-life-in-public-generation - are all now coming into the workplace, and they have a hell of a lot to learn about what is, and is not, appropriate behaviour.

    1. g e


      I think the main point is that the sacked guy posted it with intentionally restricted privacy, something I think the court failed to give enough weight to.

      Had it been an open post then it'd be a non-issue.

    2. Swiss

      I can believe it...

      I gave you a thumbs down for this post.

      My reason is that OK it was on Facebook and yes I gues the privacy setting are not what they should be, but none the less, he did set his profile to private so only the people he has added as friends should be able to see his comments.

      Assuming he has maybe 10 - 15 or 50 "friends" it still a closed group comment/discussion.

      Had he chosen his "friends" with more care, I daresay he would still be employed by Apple.

      I feel this is inded a very bad precedent to set with regards to what can be deemed as free speech in private and what can be punished as libel etc...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  43. tonysmith

    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

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

  44. Fatty Eglon

    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.

  45. andy 45

    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)

  46. Mick Sheppard

    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.

  47. Keep Refrigerated
    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.

  48. John D Salt

    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,


    1. John Bailey

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

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

  49. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  50. Mongo 1


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

  51. Oninoshiko

    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.

  52. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    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 <> 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?

  53. sisk


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

  54. joe.user

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

    What a joke of a law.

  55. El Andy

    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?

  56. Anonymous Coward
    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....

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

  58. Leeroy

    Says it all really

    "image is so central to its success"

  59. jonfr

    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.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    goose stepping

    Welcome to the new world order..

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

  61. Danny 5
    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.

  62. Silverburn

    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...

  63. Pete Wood

    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.

    1. Danny 5

      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?

      1. Pete Wood

        @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.

        1. scott 30

          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?

          1. Pete Wood


            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.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  65. Hairy Airey

    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 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...

  66. Hairy Airey

    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.

    1. Pete Wood

      @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.

  67. TRT Silver badge

    Facebook is evil.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  69. Hairy Airey

    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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