Social Media, A Double Edged Sword for Businesses
Social media is a fantastic marketing tool. Expanding a company’s reach, promoting new items, and improving cash flow are just a few of the ways it works For business It can also work against it though. A double edged sword, so to speak.
Employees are, outside of work, the general public. They also use social media to communicate things about businesses on a regular basis, and a business owner is limited by National Labor Laws as to what and how they can control what is said about them.
Case in Point
Take into consideration, an issue that put Chipotle in the line of fire recently. James Kennedy, a 38 year old former employee of the burrito giant filed a lawsuit, claiming he had been fired for Tweeting negative comments about the company.
The former employee posted a tweet in response to a customer’s positive comment about a free food promotion. His response, “@Chipotle Tweets, nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members make only $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?”, was against the company’s social media policy. His location’s manager pointed it out to him in their social media policy.
He deleted the post but was still terminated a short time later. His release was preempted further by the submission of a petition he passed around, touting poor break policies for employees. His supervisor testified later in court, that he was terminated after they argued about the petition, for fear of violence, because he was a war veteran.
The Administrative Law judge presiding over the case read over the policies and found Chiptole’s social media policy went against the National Labor Relations Act, which exempts employee comments, under federal law, from being used against them when they represent the collective voice of the workers acting together to improve working conditions. The judge ruled in Kennedy’s favor.
The ruling ordered Chipotle to pay Kennedy’s lost wages, offer to hire him back, and as an added highlight to their poor practices, post notices where the employees could see them. The notices were required to inform employees of the illegal items within their policies.
Kennedy had already gained new employment, a union position with an airline where he was happy with the terms and conditions he was working under, so he turned down the rehire offer. He also requested that his back pay be given in coupons for free Chipotle.
Protection vs. Control
Business owners should, by all means, establish policies and practices that benefit and protect the company. However, there is a fine line between protection and control. Knowing where the line is drawn can be an expensive lesson to learn.
Prevention is Key
Do your research when developing the company policies and procedures manual, and provide your business attorney with a copy to confirm that there are legal and up to date before issuing them to employees.
It is worth the extra expense to keep your company from walking the sharp edge of what a company can and cannot control with social media, or anything else.
For business litigation assistance, contact John McDuff today.