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data privacy Apple in Ireland must pay worker €4.5k for unfair dismissal over use of personal email

The French national earned €33,441 a year as a full-time customer relations advisor at Apple Distribution, which is based in Cork

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A former worker for Apple in Ireland who claimed his personal email was shared by management has been awarded €4,500 for unfair dismissal.

Matthieu Debomy said he was constructively dismissed after his job at Apple Distribution International came under threat due to a company disciplinary process.

The French national earned €33,441 a year as a full-time customer relations advisor at Apple Distribution, which is based in Cork, between January 2014 and October last year.

Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer Patsy Doyle awarded him €4,500 for unfair dismissal.

She found the actions of the employer in processing his personal data was a “serious departure from the trust and confidence enshrined in a contract of employment”.

Mr Debomy said he received a written warning in October last year following a “so called offence” that was not covered in any handbook.

He said his team became aware that a product reseller was giving false information to customers about products.

Mr Debomy made an “experimental” contact with the reseller using his own personal details rather than the company logo.

Following this, the reseller contacted the company and the fact that he was an employee was confirmed. He suspected that this was enabled by his employer.

His employer began an investigation in August last year.

Mr Debomy was concerned about his data privacy rights and the fact his personal email was shared in the minutes of a meeting.

He said he was told that the consequences of the disciplinary procedure if proven could lead to his dismissal.

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The worker attended a disciplinary meeting on September 29 and resigned on October 2, before the outcome became available. He said he felt compelled to resign as he feared dismissal and the consequences for his career.

He said he has since complained under GDPR legislation in France.

Apple Distribution, which has over 5,500 staff, said GDPR issues had been addressed on a “legitimate interest” basis.

It said he resigned on a voluntary basis and the disciplinary procedure was lawful and reasonable.

The employer said the complainant was placed on a written warning in respect of his conduct and given a right of appeal, which he did not exercise.

It argued that the case should be dismissed and there was no evidence he had been driven out of the company.

Ms Doyle said it was “of note” that one of the allegations raised occurred from the worker’s personal email while logged off from the employer’s IT system.

She found the actions of the employer “constituted a repudiatory breach of contract”.

“I find that the respondent’s processing of the complainant’s personal data without apparent preclearance or complainant consent demonstrated a serious departure from the trust and confidence enshrined in a contract of employment,” she said.

“It was unreasonable and did not comply with the contractual provision on data protection.”

She said Mr Debomy acknowledged he made mistakes and errors of judgement in the course of his work with the reseller connections, but deserved a “more careful approach”.

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