Apple employees wanting to blow off some steam on Facebook or Twitter may want to think twice before they post their comments. In a recent decision, the UK Labor tribunal upheld Apple's right to fire employees over negative comments left on a social network. This decision cited Apple's social media policy which prohibits employees from posting negative comments on social networks.
This legal dispute started when "Crisp," an Apple employee in the UK, posted some derogatory comments against Apple and its products on a private Facebook page. These comments were made outside working hours, but were noticed by a fellow colleague who printed them up and showed them to a manager. Crisp was then fired for "gross misconduct" because he had violated Apple's social policy.
According to analysis by lawyer Jamie Hamnett, the UK tribunal agreed with Apple's assertion that these comments could have a material effect on Apple's commercial reputation. When Crisp claimed that he had a right to free expression, the Tribunal again sided with Apple which argued the company had a right to limit this speech, especially since these comments can be easily shared by Crisps's Facebook friends.
This decision should be a warning to employees who work at companies that have strict social network policies. You need to be careful what you say online. It should also be a wake-up call for companies concerned about their employee's behavior online. Companies don't have to cross their fingers and hope employees are nice. They can enforce a strict, well-written social media policy with the expectation that it will likely be upheld in court.