A former Chipotle employee who was fired for criticizing the company on Twitter has won a major legal battle against the fast-food chain.
An administrative judge ruled in favor of Philadelphia-area worker James Kennedy, stating that Chipotle’s social media policy violated federal labor laws. As a result of the ruling, Kennedy — who worked at the company’s Havertown store and has since moved on to a union job at American Airlines — must now be offered re-employment and compensation for lost wages.
Judge Susan Flynn has also ordered Chipotle to post signs acknowledging that some of its employee policies, in particular its social media rules, were illegal. The ruling marks a major precedent in the fight for the social media rights of fast-food workers protesting wages and working conditions.
The Twitter post that saw Kennedy fired from his role was tweeted in January 2015, in response to a customer’s post regarding a free food offer, reports CBS News.
“ChipotleTweets, nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members make only $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?” read Kennedy’s tweet. The 38-year-old reportedly deleted the post after a supervisor alerted him to the company’s social media policy, which banned “disparaging, false” statements about Chipotle. However, it was too late, as Kennedy was fired a fortnight later.
The Pennsylvania Workers Organizing Committee represented Kennedy as part of its ongoing push for an increase in wages for fast-food employees. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) also agreed with the complaints filed by the organization, contending that Chipotle behaved unethically. Chipotle has not commented on the ruling.
Kennedy seemed happy with the result, stating that he is willing to accept his back wages in the form of food vouchers as he still believes Chipotle’s food is “delicious.”