Judge’s ruling a bitter burrito to swallow

Posted on March 18, 2016

 

A legal verdict passed in Pennsylvania, US, in a case involving a Mexican fast food chain could be bad news for managers wanting to control their online reputation, but great news for disgruntled employees.

Chipotle, which has outlets in the UK and Canada as well as the US and offers tacos, burritos and salads to customers wanting a taste from south of the border, was found at fault for dismissing an employee who took to microblogging platform Twitter to let off some steam about working conditions.

War veteran James Kennedy tweeted:

“@ChipotleTweets, nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members only make $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?”

A supervisor read the riot act on the 38-year-old in the form of the company’s social media policy, which stipulates that an employee can’t make “disparaging false” statements about the company in public. Kennedy then removed the tweet.

Sadly, the story didn’t end there. A fortnight following the episode, Kennedy was dismissed after he circulated a petition that demanded rest breaks for employees while on their shift. During the court hearing, Kennedy’s supervisor admitted that she fired him because she was concerned that the situation would escalate into violence following an argument over the incident.

However, Kennedy won the case. The judge, ruling in his favour, said that Chipotle’s social media policy broke labour laws, and instructed the chain to post signage that explained it was illegal.

Celebrating his victory, Kennedy said:

“If you want to tweet something about your personal experience at your job, do it.

“A lot of times, your bosses will sugarcoat what’s going on. Doing it publicly really puts the spotlight on them.”

The verdict ordered Chipotle to give Kennedy his old job back, and reimburse him any wages he lost as a result of his dismissal. Although he now has a job with American Airlines, Kennedy was magnanimous in victory. He fully intends to take his lost wages, but he has asked for them in the form of Chipotle vouchers, as he’s still a big fan of its food.

This case highlights something that we at Engage Web are passionate about – online reputation management. If you care about how your company is represented online, there are certain strategies to adopt should an unhappy customer decide to follow James Kennedy’s line of calling you out on Twitter or Facebook. However, employee relations are a different kettle of fish tacos altogether.

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