Ruling says Chipotle can't fire employees for venting on social media

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

After Pennsylvania Chipotle employee James Kennedy was fired for venting on social media about his frustrations at the Tex-Mex fast-food restaurant, he was fired for violating the chain's social media policy.

But Eater reported Monday that a decision from the National Labor Relations Board said the policy violates federal labor laws.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Kennedy tweeted and later deleted a grievance about employee pay after his bosses gave him a warning.

The January 2015 tweet was in response to a customer sending Chipotle a thank you tweet or a free item.

"@ChipotleTweets, nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members only make $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?" Kennedy tweeted, according to the The Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to Kennedy's then-boss, he violated part of the restaurant's social media policy that prohibited "disparaging, false … statements about ... Chipotle."

Kennedy later circulated a petition that claimed workers did not get their proper breaks, and he was fired.

Bloomberg BNA reported that the NLRB's decision said Chipotle's social media police break the law.

It also said Chipotle could not fire employees for creating and sharing petitions tied to pay, breaks, overtime and worker's rights issues and that the restaurant must stop "prohibiting employees from circulating petitions regarding the company’s adherence to its break policy or any other terms and conditions of employment."

The NLRB also ordered Chipotle to end its policies on solicitation, "ethical communications," and one policy that prohibits discussing politics at work.

The board ordered that Kennedy be offered his job back and given back pay.

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