In recent years employers have had to consider putting into place policies in order to protect against adverse comments made about them by their employees using social media.

When an employer gets these policies right they can rely on them to ensure that through following them they are fair in their subsequent decisions to dismiss or caution an employee. Apple have shown this to be true with the tribunal's decision that the dismissal of Mr Crisp for comments made on his facebook page was fair.


Mr Crisp had become disillusioned with his employment following the denial of him transferring to a post in the US due to visa restrictions. Since that time he had posted comments on his facebook page which Apple believed to bring their reputation into disrepute. They had noted within their disciplinary procedures that such actions could be considered gross misconduct.

Mr Crisp had commented on not being happy with his job and on other occasions about perceived faults with Apple products and some “apps” themselves. In considering whether or not Apple were right to consider these actions gross misconduct the tribunal considered the fact that reputation was of such high importance to the success of Apple, more so than other companies.

Apple suspended Mr Crisp and investigated the matter. He was allowed to take a look at the disciplinary procedure before his hearing, however it was not made available to him during the hearing itself. At the hearing it was explained that there was a worry that the posts could be viewed by a wider network of people than just Mr Crisp's “friends”. It was also mentioned that although he didn't expressly mention his employment at Apple his friends would have been aware of it. The decision was therefore made to dismiss him for having brought the company's image into disrepute. Mr Crisp appealed this decision but it was upheld following a full hearing.

Mr Crisp claimed unfair dismissal also arguing that his human rights had been affected by the decision to dismiss based on his facebook comments, specifically his right to respect for private and family life and his right to freedom of expression. He felt that his employers should not have had such a control on what he saw as essentially his private life. However, the tribunal took into consideration the fact that it was a fellow employee and one with whom he was “friends” who had alerted the company to the comments in the first place. In this respect there was no reasonable belief that there would be privacy. Furthermore, as a person working within the technology sector, it was deemed that Mr Crisp would understand the repercussions of his actions in terms of who might view the information and how quickly it could be passed on. Article 8, therefore, was not engaged in this occasion. The tribunal added, that even if it had have been engaged the importance to Apple of its reputation was so central to its success that their actions would have been proportionate in order to protect the company's reputation.

Similarly, while Article 9, that of freedom of expression was engaged since Mr Crisp had made the comments these were again considered to be proportionate actions and allowed for under the Act itself. The tribunal also mentioned the fact that the comments were not of the type strictly to be protected by the Article since they were not for example political in nature.

Importantly, the tribunal did consider that the comments were of such “a high risk that this conduct could bring the company into disrepute”. And although Apple had not provided Mr Crisp with its disciplinary procedure prior to the appeal stage, this failure was not significant enough to render the disciplinary process unfair. The actions of Apple were considered proportionate in the circumstances.

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