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Chipotle's Social Media Policy Found Illegal

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

Corporations want engagement from their customers on social media. But they don't want labor complaining about them or their policies online. Doing that got one worker at Chipotle fired and now has the fast-food chain in the spotlight yet again.

An administrative law judge in Pennsylvania has ordered Chipotle to pay James Kennedy for lost wages, offer to rehire him, and to change and clarify its social media rules, according to the Associated Press. What does that mean for the rest of us?

Nothing Is Free

James Kennedy, 38, was fired from his job when he responded to a customer's grateful tweet about a free food offer. He tweeted back, "@ChipotleTweets, nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members make only $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?"

A supervisor showed Kennedy the company's social media policy, which reportedly banned any disparaging, false statements about Chipotle. He deleted his tweet after this but was fired two weeks later for circulating a petition regarding worker breaks. His manager testified that she feared that Kennedy -- a war veteran -- would become violent after arguing with her about the petition.

Administrative law judge Susan Flynn found Chipotle's social media policy to be illegal and ordered the company to acknowledge as much, posting signs informing employees that they had violated labor laws. Chipotle did not respond to requests for comment immediately after the ruling.

Kennedy Moving On

Kennedy was represented by the Pennsylvania Workers Organizing Committee and received support from the National Labor Relations Board -- his was one of many cases regarding the social media rights of workers protesting wages and working conditions that the NLRB considered.

Meanwhile, Kennedy has found other work. He says he is happy laboring at an airline now and that he will accept some of his back pay in the form of food vouchers. Perhaps he was feeling generous after the judge vindicated him, as Kennedy told reporters, ""You cannot deny that their food is delicious, but their labor policies were atrocious."

What Does This Mean?

As this case shows, just because a company has a policy, it doesn't mean that the demands in it are all legal. This is a great reminder to business owners to review your social media policy and ensure it is not too restrictive, as well as to think deeper. If working for you is so great, why fear what your workers will say?

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are concerned about the legality of your social media policy, or don't have one in place and now think you should, speak to a lawyer. An attorney can review the rules and ensure that you are doing right by workers and your company.

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