Judge rules Apple “unfairly” fired employee who took secretive photos of a female colleague

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(Image credit: Future)

A judge has ruled that “there were no reasonable grounds” for Apple to fire an employee for taking secret photos of a female colleague. This is the second time in a month that a UK judge has criticized Apple’s firing choices around workplace culture. 

As reported by The Telegraph, the employee was found to have secretly taken a photo of a colleague to send to a group chat and another directly to an employee who had a crush on them. Responding to the first, the employee with the crush, said “Look at bae there... so cute…working her a-- off but still looking great”. When the photo was shown to another employee, he was reported to management and both the photo's taker and the employee who shared it were fired. 

The judge presiding over the case, Judge Walker claimed “there were no reasonable grounds” for this firing and that there was no “sexual harassment or indeed any harassment”. He argues that while the photos could be considered an invasion of privacy, “this is a world in which there are cameras in all sorts of locations”. Though the judgment states the firing was unjust, it also says “The conduct was something which should not have happened… and thus it is blameworthy”.

Apple will now have to pay compensation though the specific figure has not yet been revealed.

A wider problem

Just last month, a different UK judge ruled Apple unfairly fired an employee who told a coworker of Chinese heritage: "See you in nine months, as long as you lot don’t release another deadly disease on the world.”

As pointed out by The Telegraph above, Apple made many changes to the way it handles “toxic workplaces” in 2022 and this is raising tensions between the tech giant and UK courts. In the most recent hearing, the judge claimed that Apple’s policies were “vague” and couldn’t be demonstrably understood by employees. It is unclear how this will affect managerial decisions around Apple workplaces in the UK going forward. 

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James Bentley

James is a staff writer and general Jack of all trades at iMore. With news, features, reviews, and guides under his belt, he has always liked Apple for its unique branding and distinctive style. Originally buying a Macbook for music and video production, he has since gone on to join the Apple ecosystem with as many devices as he can fit on his person. 

With a degree in Law and Media and being a little too young to move onto the next step of his law career, James started writing from his bedroom about games, movies, tech, and anything else he could think of. Within months, this turned into a fully-fledged career as a freelance journalist. Before joining iMore, he was a staff writer at Gfinity and saw himself published at sites like TechRadar, NME, and Eurogamer. 

As his extensive portfolio implies, James was predominantly a games journalist before joining iMore and brings with him a unique perspective on Apple itself. When not working, he is trying to catch up with the movies and albums of the year, as well as finally finishing the Yakuza series. If you like Midwest emo music or pretentious indie games that will make you cry, he’ll talk your ear off.

  • Just_Me_D
    This is ‘my’ opinion: in regard to the photos, if Apple indeed fired them for sexual harassment or causing a toxic work environment, etcetera then I agree with the judge’s ruling. Nothing about it, based on what I read in the article, was harassment, sexual, violent, demeaning or evil. Again, this is ‘my’ opinion.

    Both women and men have discreet and sometimes not so discreet discussions about colleagues they find attractive.

    Now if Apple had a policy in place that specifically prohibits the photographing of colleagues without their consent on Apple Property then I wouldn’t have a problem with the firing as long as it was for that violation.

    In regard to the situation in which the employee made the statement about releasing another deadly virus, that person, in my opinion, should have been fired. Again, that’s ‘my’ opinion. Yours may differ.
  • Ledsteplin
    This was a UK judge. Wondering if this ruling would have been different in the US. This judge appears to be wishy washy. Rules "unfair" then says, "The conduct was something which should not have happened… and thus it is blameworthy”.
  • EdwinG
    Ledsteplin said:
    This was a UK judge. Wondering if this ruling would have been different in the US.
    The answer is most likely yes.

    And it would have been different in Canada, and all of its 10 provinces and 3 territories, even between all 14 of them.

    That’s because the Labour Codes simply are different, and provides the baseline for employee/employer relationships.