On January 25, 2013, Chelsea Welch, a server at a St. Louis Applebee’s, was terminated from her position after posting online a photograph of a note a customer wrote on a receipt. The note, left by a Missouri-based pastor, stated, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” The pastor left no tip and scratched out the automatic tip included for parties of 8 or more people. Welch responded by posting the picture on a social media website with a caption stating “I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent.”
The pastor, Alois Bell of the Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries Church, complained to Welch’s manager and Welch was fired. Applebee’s stated it fired the employee because the post contained the pastor’s name. The corporation’s President Mike Archer stated that he understands times are tough at the moment especially for servers. However, he said the customer’s rights were violated as well as the company’s social media policy. “It’s not favoring the guest over the employee,” Archer said. “It’s really a simple rule that we have that was violated.”
While we can’t speak to what is or is not a proper tip in the eyes of God, social media-related terminations are occurring with greater frequency. These types of terminations raise questions under the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees to engage in concerted activity that is for their mutual aid or protection. In addition, numerous states have passed or are contemplating laws regarding employer access to employee social media. Employers should therefore tread lightly in these situations; although God may not have rules on social media postings, several state and federal authorities do.
This blog is presented under protest by the law firm of Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP. It is essentially the random thoughts and opinions of someone who lives in the trenches of the war that often is employment law–he/she may well be a little shell-shocked. So if you are thinking “woohoo, I just landed some free legal advice that will fix all my problems!”, think again. This is commentary people, a sketchy overview of some current legal issue with a dose of humor, but commentary nonetheless; as if Dennis Miller were a lawyer…and still mildly amusing. No legal advice here; you would have to pay real US currency for that (unless you are my mom, and even then there are limits). But feel free to contact us with your questions and comments—who knows, we might even answer you. And if you want to spread this stuff around, feel free to do so, but please keep it in its present form (‘cause you can’t mess with this kind of poetry). Big news: Copyright 2013. All rights reserved; yep, all of them.
If you have any questions regarding this blog or your life in general, contact Kelly O. Scott, Esq. (who else would you contact?), commander in chief of this blog and Head Honcho (official legal title) of ECJ’s Employment Law Department, at (310) 281-6348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.