Apple manager claims unfair dismissal

A human resources manager with US multinational Apple said a Cork-based manager, who claims he was unfairly dismissed after turning down a position with the company in California, did not have a “mobility clause” and was under no compulsion to move to the US.

Will Reeves, who was a manager on a salary of €112,000, has taken an action for unfair dismissal against the tech giant.

The father of five began a new role at Apple in 2009 as a project management officer, which saw him over a team based at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Apple executives subsequently decided it would be better if Mr Reeves, who had received “exceptional reviews”, relocated to Cupertino and he was offered a relocation package. The package was worth €400,000, Apple executive James Verner previously told an Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Mr Reeves decided to turn down the role for family reasons.

Giving evidence at the tribunal, HR manager for Apple in Cork, Bernard Cronin, said Apple did not have mobility clauses in contracts which meant the company could not relocate Mr Reeves without his permission.

However, he told the tribunal that once Mr Reeves decided not to accept the role in the US, there was a “redundancy situation”.

Questioned by Cathy Maguire BL as to whether he thought it was “odd that someone who was so highly rated was not kept on when the company was growing like a weed”, Mr Cronin said that Mr Reeves had the opportunity to go to the US.

“He had a specific skill set and there were limited options for his skill set in Cork,” said Mr Cronin, who added that Mr Reeves was made aware of any positions “open” in Apple.

The tribunal heard Mr Reeves was put forward as a potential candidate for a six-month role in Cork but that it was subject to approval from the US.

In Dec 2010, when Mr Cronin emailed the US office to find out what was happening, he was informed it was felt that Mr Reeves was not the best person for the job and felt they should look for someone with a “different skillset”.

Mr Cronin had replied in an email that it was “weird” as two Cork-based employees had indicated he was the “perfect fit”.

Ms Maguire said there was no written documentation stating why Mr Reeves was not suitable for the role, about the manner in which a complaint against him was dealt with (which was later found to be without foundation) or in relation to the move in the US.

She said there were no documents about “core business decisions”.

Mr Cronin said that was how Apple operated: “Apple is a company that moves quickly. If we documented every business decision we would not be as successful as we are today.”

He said Apple “treated people fairly” and this was the first time he had appeared before an EAT in his 32 years with the company.

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