Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can Employers Stop Employees from Insulting Customers on Social Media?

Disclosure (Again) I love Chipotle, and think CMG has room to run but employees can and should not be allowed to openly and repeatedly insult customers, after all they pay the bills. I believe Chipotle Burritos to be amongst the best in the world made with great ingredients, but there is however a human element that must not be overlooked (edit 1.3.12).

A new day has not brought relief for Chipotle's facebook page, which is still dominated by cat posts. What's worse is the fact that more Chipotle employees are calling customers "stupid."  This is damaging for any retail brand.  It's one thing to defend a brand or a co-worker but its quite different to insult customers.  Especially these "blanket" insults we've been seeing recently:

I've been asked if the NLRB Section 7 prohibits Social Media Policy language limiting discussion of insulting customers and/or firing employees for insulting customers (another wrinkle, what about generally distasteful comments?).

I've asked a few attorneys about this and the answer I've gotten is that it is a grey area and that it wasn't specifically addressed by the NLRB, I'll update this as better information becomes available.  However, we could be seeing a precedent setting case shortly.  UPDATE 5/1/11: I've been told that private companies can enforce social media policies without fear of contention.   

The question really boils down to are the customers part of the corporate working environment and if these social posts are really aimed at other employees.  More on Facebook Firing here.

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