There’s more bad news this week for restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, but this time it has nothing to do with the food. Last year, we heard about an NLRB decision upholding an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) finding that the restaurant had committed an unfair labor practice. According to the decision, Chipotle had allegedly threatened and interrogated employees who engaged in discussions about their pay. The employee at issue in the case had worked at a Chipotle restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. He was also a union member who participated in strikes and was involved with the “Show Me 15” campaign for a higher minimum wage. That decision is currently pending appeal, and Chipotle has suffered another NLRB loss this week. An ALJ ruled against the restaurant and found an unfair labor practice charge for what the judge described as the company’s unlawful social media code of conduct. The case involves a Chipotle employee in Havertown, Pennsylvania, named James Kennedy. By way of background, Chipotle employs a national social media strategist who is responsible for reviewing employees’ social media posts to determine whether any of them violate the company’s social media policy. In early 2015, some of Kennedy’s tweets were reviewed by the strategist, including one where Kennedy had replied to a few customers’ tweets. For example, in response to a customer who tweeted “Free chipotle is the best thanks,” Kennedy tweeted “nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members only make $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?” Then, replying to a tweet posted by another customer about guacamole, Kennedy wrote “it’s extra not like #Qdoba, enjoy the extra $2.” Chipotle’s social media strategist emailed the regional manager, forwarded the tweets, and told the manager to ask Kennedy to delete the tweets and to review the company’s social media policy with him. Kennedy was subsequently terminated following a dispute with management over an unrelated issue. The ALJ evaluated whether Chipotle maintained an unlawful social media policy based on the following provisions:
- If you aren’t careful and don’t use your head, your online activity can also damage Chipotle or spread incomplete, confidential, or inaccurate information.
- You may not make disparaging, false, misleading, harassing or discriminatory statements about or relating to Chipotle, our employees, suppliers, customers, competition, or investors.