Apple wrongly fired analyst who took secret photos of female colleague

Apple wrongly dismissed an employee at its London headquarters who secretly took photos of a female colleague and shared them with other staff, a judge has ruled.

The tech giant will have to pay damages to process analyst Christoph Sieberer after he went to the labor court over his dismissal due to harassment.

Mr Sieberer took two photographs of a colleague at Apple at the company’s Battersea Power Station headquarters without her knowledge and shared them with another male employee who had a “crush” on her, the court heard.

An investigation by the company found the matter amounted to sexual harassment and said Mr Sieberer’s behaviour had breached company policy, leading to his dismissal last year. However, employment judge N Walker said the decision was unfair.

Apple, like other tech companies, wants to tackle harassment in this traditionally male-dominated sector.

Mr. Sieberer had shared a photo of the employee taken in the Apple cafeteria in a group chat with three other coworkers. A second, taken from three floors above her in a common area, was sent to an employee identified as Thomas, who said he had a crush on the employee.

In response to the first post, Thomas replied: “Look at my baby there… so cute… she’s letting it all go but she still looks amazing,” adding: “That’s my girl.”

The issue was raised with a manager by a female coworker after Thomas showed her the second photo. Both male employees were fired.

However, Judge Walker said there were “no reasonable grounds” for deciding that Mr Sieberer had committed “sexual harassment or any harassment whatsoever”, and that there was no evidence that anyone who had seen the pictures had been offended by them.

The judge criticized Apple’s harassment policy as “vague” and not meeting standards for clarity.

The ruling said the taking of the pictures was “arguably an invasion of privacy… but this is a world where there are cameras in all sorts of locations”. However, it added: “The behaviour was something that should not have happened… and therefore it is reprehensible”. Mr Sieberer had admitted his actions were wrong.

The tribunal will award damages later. It said Mr Sieberer’s typical compensation should be reduced by 10%, not 100% as Apple had argued.

Apple said in 2022 that it had made changes after more than a dozen women reported harassment, including sexual misconduct, and that the company did not take the reports seriously, the company said.

Following the allegations, the company said it could have handled some cases differently and that it was adjusting its training and procedures.

Apple’s Corporate Conduct Policy states: “Apple is committed to maintaining a creative, diverse, inclusive and supportive work environment and will not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any employee.”

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