Apple unfairly sacked analyst who took secret photos of female colleague


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

The tech giant will be forced to pay compensation to Christoph Sieberer, a process analyst, after he went to the Employment Tribunal over his dismissal for harassment.

Mr Sieberer took two photos of a fellow Apple employee 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 tribunal heard.

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

Apple, like other tech companies, has sought to crack down on harassment in the traditionally male-dominated industry.

Mr Sieberer had shared one photo of the employee taken in Apple’s canteen in a group chat with three other colleagues. A second, taken from three floors above her in a communal area, was sent to an employee known as Thomas who stated he had a crush on the employee.

In response to the first message, Thomas replied “Look at bae there… so cute…working her a– off but still looking great” and added “That’s my girl”.

The matter was raised with a manager by a female colleague after Thomas had shown her the second photo. Both male employees were sacked.

However, Judge Walker said that “there were no reasonable grounds” for the decision that Mr Sieberer had committed “sexual harassment or indeed any harassment”, and that there was no evidence that anyone who saw the photos had taken offence at them.

The judge criticised Apple’s policies on harassment as “vague” and did not meet standards for clarity.

The judgement said that taking the photos was “arguably an invasion of privacy… but this is a world in which there are cameras in all sorts of locations”. However, it added: “The conduct was something which should not have happened… and thus it is blameworthy”. Mr Sieberer had conceded that his actions were wrong.

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

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

After the allegations, the company said it could have handled some cases differently and that it was making changes to training and procedures.

Apple’s business conduct policy says: “Apple is dedicated to maintaining a creative, diverse, inclusive, and supportive work environment, and does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of employees.”

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