Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Waitress Fired After Complaining on Facebook: "Legally Justified" Does Not Always Equal "Good PR"

The Huffington Post reports that Brixx Pizza fired a North Carolina waitress after she complained on Facebook about a customer's stingy tipping.

According to the Post, a couple sat at their table for three hours, and waitress Ashley Johnson, 22, said the customers kept her at work an hour after she should have been able to clock out. The couple rewarded her with a $5 tip.

A frustrated Johnson criticized them on her Facebook page -- calling the couple cheap and mentioning her employer by name.

Brixx got in touch with Johnson shortly thereafter, informing her that it was terminating her employment because her Facebook post violated company policy against disparaging customers and casting the restaurant in a negative light via social network sites.

Brixx posted the following official statement on its Facebook page discussion board:

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza appreciates your feedback! Please know we value our employees very much, which is why we are one of the few small restaurant companies that offers benefits. Brixx also values our customers and has a policy against making negative remarks about them.

As an employer, it is necessary to enforce policies for the benefit of all our hardworking employees and valued customers. Our policies ensure Brixx is an enjoyable place to both work AND dine. We welcome your comments, but please keep it clean!
As evidenced by the backlash on the company's Facebook page, employers have to consider not only legal implications of a Facebook firing, but also the practical implications -- including a potential backlash from the public that may be triggered by discipline for an employee's online activity. Although the company may be able to justify the termination from a legal perspective, it won't be easy to recover from the PR nightmare that could ensue.   

One user commented, in part, "You've gone & made Ashley Johnson famous. And your company INfamous." One particularly insightful comment aptly summarizes the point of my post:

Thanks to Becca for the tip on this story!

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