Apple Unfairly Fired U.K. Worker Who Was Part Toxic Work Culture, Judge Says

By Upmanyu Trivedi | June 25, 2024

Apple Inc. unfairly fired an employee for making racist comments that were part of a toxic workplace culture at one of its London stores, according to a UK court ruling.

Apple’s investigation, before firing Timothy Jeffries who worked as a “genius” at its store in White City, was “poor and incomplete,” an employment tribunal judge said. Apple didn’t have a zero tolerance policy in place around discrimination and harassment, which it wanted to impose for the dismissal, according to the ruling published this week.

“In this case there was ample evidence that there was a culture in the repair room which embraced explicit language and some jokes which may be considered inappropriate, whether they referred to race or other sensitive issues,” the judge said.

Jeffries was not the only person who made inappropriate comments and Apple was investigating the repair room culture at the time.

“See you in nine months,” Jeffries said bidding farewell to an employee when he turned to a female colleague of Chinese heritage and added, “as long as you lot don’t release another deadly disease on the world,” according to the judgment. The employee made an official complaint over the incident.

He was fired last year after an investigation and a disciplinary hearing at Apple. His comment was contrary to Apple’s expectations around standards of behavior, according to evidence given at trial.

The judge said there was evidence that his colleagues, including the woman, took it as a joke and were not offended. “No reasonable employer would dismiss somebody by relying on the application of a zero tolerance policy, which does not exist,” he said.

The UK’s legal regime encourages employers to aim for a zero tolerance of race discrimination, which can attract the most severe punishment for any breach. Apple must clearly set out a zero tolerance policy and the consequences of its violation in order to implement it, the judge said.

“I’m very happy with the outcome,” Jeffries said after the ruling. “It’s important to read the judgment as a whole to understand the case in context.”

An Apple spokesperson declined to immediately comment.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.