Judge Says Chipotle’s Social Media Policy Violated U.S. Labor Laws

Administrative Law Judge Susan A. Flynn ruled that Chipotle's social media policy violated the National Labor Relations Act.

March 17, 2016

HAVERTOWN, Pa. – An administrative judge found that Chipotle’s social media policy violated federal labor laws while ruling in favor of a Philadelphia-area employee who was fired after criticizing the company on Twitter last year, reports Philly.com.

James Kennedy was fired from a Havertown, Pennsylvania, Chipotle after he tweeted about wages and circulated a petition asking managers to allow workers to take their breaks. Now Chipotle must “offer to hire him back, pay him back wages, and post signs that some of its employee communication policies, including its former social guidelines, violated labor law,” writes the news source.

The former Chipotle worker’s case became part of a sweep of lawsuits before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on which types of social media communications were covered under federal labor laws and protect the rights of workers acting together to improve wages and conditions.

In January 2015, after a customer tweeted a thank you message for a freebie at Chipotle, Kennedy tweeted back, "@ChipotleTweets, nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members only make $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?" Kennedy’s supervisor showed him the company’s social media policy, which prohibits employees from making “disparaging, false…statements about…Chipotle,” notes Philly.com. Kennedy was asked to remove the tweet, which he did, but was fired two weeks later on Feb. 17, 2015, after he circulated a petition about employees being unable to take their breaks.

Kennedy was represented by the Pennsylvania Workers Organizing Committee, and the NLRB agreed with complaints filed by the group that Kennedy was unfairly treated.

Kennedy told the news source that he’d happily accept his back wages in the form of food vouchers. “You cannot deny that their food is delicious, but their labor policies were atrocious,” he said.

For more on top labor issues facing convenience retailers, be on the lookout for the upcoming April issue of NACS Magazine.