The Fair Work Commission has rejected Apple Australia's bid to lawyer up when it faces a former Apple Store staffer who is representing himself in an unfair dismissal case in Adelaide.
Muhammad Skaka, a former Apple employee, was dismissed from the company on 12 February, and proceeded to apply for an unfair dismissal remedy with the FWC.
Apple claims that Skaka was let go for misconduct following an internal investigation. The matter was referred to the FWC, though details about the case were not disclosed.
During the first directions hearing, Skaka informed the commission that he intended to represent himself at the upcoming hearing, which is typical in unfair dismissal proceedings.
Apple – the wealthiest company in history – argued it needed to bring in outside legal representation to help its proceedings against the Adelaide Apple Store employee.
Individuals and organisations typically represent themselves in FWC proceedings, which prefers to handle matters informally, efficiently and avoid "unnecessary formality".
Parties must first receive permission from the FWC for legal representation from a third party on the basis that it would be more efficient and reduce the complexity of the case, if a person is unable to represent themselves, or if it would be unfair to allow one party over the other to have representation.
"The appearance of lawyers to represent the interests of parties to a hearing runs the very real risk that what was intended by the legislature to be an informal procedure will be burdened by unnecessary formality," the commission stated.
Skaka opposed the request, saying it would be unfair to grant permission to Apple when he would still be representing himself, and that Apple already has a substantial in-house legal team to represent itself, given the size of the company.
The iPhone maker claimed it would be more efficient to bring in legal representation because the person most familiar with the matter and most likely to represent the company would also be presented as a witness for Apple.
The commission conceded Apple's argument that legal representation would likely allow proceedings to run more smoothly. However, the commission said there were no complex issues in the case that Apple's in-house legal team wouldn't be able to handle.
Ultimately, the commission decided that allowing Apple to have legal representation would be unfair to Skaka, and rejected Apple's application.
The hearing is scheduled for 5-7 June. Apple has been contacted for comment.