Just in case you misread that title, we are talking about an employer who learned the hard way that social media doesn’t just ruin employees lives. It has gotten to the point that I am no longer surprised when an employee is facing termination (or worse) for something they did on social media (and if you are a public employee who tweets, facebooks, or is reading this very post during work time PLEASE STOP NOW!), so its nice to see The Employer Handbook Blog link to a Fair Labor Standards Act case where the employer’s social media use got them in all kinds of trouble.
Read on for all the Coyote Ugly details…
The situation was started when a group of employees at Coyote Ugly filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for misclassification of work as off-the-clock and underpayment of overtime. After the suit was filed, the President / Founder of Coyote Ugly posted an entry on a blog that appears on the Coyote Ugly website that read “This particular case will end up pissing me off[,] cause it is coming from someone we terminated for theft… I am still a very new Buddhist[,] cause my thoughts are ‘[f**k] that [b**ch.]'” The Director of Operations then attended a party with one of the named plaintiffs where he tweeted “Dear God, please don’t let me kill the girl that is suing me . . . . that is all . . . .”
In analyzing competing motions for summary judgment, the court noted that Supreme Court precedent holds that Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision prohibits any action that might have “dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” Based on this standard the court denied both motions for summary judgment and held that a reasonable jury could find that these blog postings would cause sufficient embarrassment and humiliation to qualify as an adverse action for retaliation purposes.
The take-away here is clearly that both employees and employers need to be cognizant of what they are putting on social media because both sides can get hurt.