Ken Bauer was an engineer at Apple for over 4 years. Until recently, when a mistake during lunch with his daughter and wife unexpectedly cost him his job.
Confidentiality agreements aren't to be taken lightly.
Ken's daughter, a relatively new vlogger on Youtube, was documenting her day out with her mom and decided to include some footage of her having lunch at the Apple cafeteria where they went to meet her dad. As she recorded him paying for their food, he casually mentions he is testing out his new iphone. Then, over lunch, his daughter, Brooke proceeds to play with the phone and record herself using some of the new features. What Brooke did not expect was how the video would go insanely viral, and in the process, essentially expose her dad for breaking the confidentiality clause he signed in his employment contract.
Apple asked Brooke to take the video down, which she did immediately. But, the damage was done. By then, the video had been accessed and shared numerous times. Which means, everyone who knows Apple's strict confidentiality rules for employees would know the rule was broken too.
And, that's why they had to fire him.
In a heartfelt apology video by Brooke, she says both her dad and her understand their decision to fire him. She also says he'll be just fine - and I agree, he will (I even explain why at the end of this article). But, it does teach us all some valuable lessons about those confidentiality agreements we sign when we get hired. In fact, here are some key things to keep in mind:
1) Even if the product has been announced, you still can't talk about it. Companies, like Apple are paying their engineers to create the products, not market them. To avoid employees unfairly gaining large social media followings that could then be leveraged for monetary gains, they must put confidentiality rules in place. When you sign a confidentiality agreement, you cannot talk about anything until you are given the green light.
2) Making an exception to the policy terms would cause legal chaos. If they chose not to fire Bauer, it would open the door for any other person in the past who had been fired for breaking the confidentiality agreement to come back and sue for unfair treatment. Which means, there are NO exceptions. Don't think that ignorance and innocence will get you off the hook. This is a 'one strike and you're out' situation.
3) Never assume something won't get back to corporate. Especially, now that everyone has a video device in their pocket. Even the most innocent of comments can be traced back to a source. I have even seen situations where jealous employees have submitted documentation of fellow employees breaking the rules in hopes of getting them fired. You just never know who or how, and you don't want to risk it.
Finally, here's the secret to surviving an unexpected termination...
If you ever find yourself in Ken Bauer's situation, the key is to do what he did. Accept responsibility fully. Everyone makes mistakes. His was one of an adoring father spending a joyful moment with his daughter. If you saw the video, you would know she is so clearly proud of her dad. As someone who has been in HR for over 15 years, I can tell you that speaks volumes about the kind of man he is. In my opinion, there are times when getting fired is good for your career. Plus, I guarantee he will get job offers soon enough. And, his new employer can be 100% assured Bauer will never break their confidentiality agreement!