Labor Rights Victory: Chipotle’s Tweet Firing Ruled Illegal

The popular burrito restaurant chain Chipotle has gotten more than its share of media attention lately. Most are likely aware of the chain’s unfortunate series of E. coli outbreaks and the negative attention it’s earned them over the past year. However, a new federal ruling against Chipotle is far more deserving of this level of attention as it could have significant, nationwide repercussions for all American workers.

Three-time U.S. war veteran James Kennedy lost his job working at a Chipotle in Havertown, Penn., last year. Kennedy says trouble began after he made a tweet that his boss asked him to take down. Replying to a customer who had gone on Twitter to thank Chipotle for a free burrito promotion that was being held at the time, Kennedy wrote, “@ChipotleTweets, nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members only make $8.50hr how much that steak bowl really?” Kennedy followed his boss’ request and the tweet was soon deleted.

Soon, Kennedy was fired. Two weeks later he was circulating a petition among his coworkers addressing a lack of breaks. An argument between a manager and Kennedy broke out over whether he was allowed to do this; she claims he was fired because he seemed like he could become violent.

James Kennedy, with the assistance of the Pennsylvania Workers Organizing Committee, soon filed a complaint which ended up before the National Labor Relations Board. Administrative Law Judge Susan A. Flynn, after reviewing the case, found in favor in Kennedy. Judge Flynn ruled that Chipotle had broken federal law by failing to adhere to the National Labor Relations Act.

Effectively, the decision says the NLRA, which grants protections for workers to organize and act collectively to gird for better pay or conditions, also extends to worker expression on social media. As part of this ruling, Chipotle must offer to re-hire Kennedy, pay him for lost wages and post signs in its restaurants explaining that the chain’s policies had violated worker rights laws.

James Kennedy says he has no intention to return to his job wrapping burritos — he’s since gotten a union job with American Airlines at Philadelphia International Airport, a change he says is “like night and day.” Kennedy landed the job a month after being fired from Chipotle, so the recouped wages aren’t expected to add up to a particularly large figure.

The way Kennedy sees it, though, that wasn’t the point. Though this ruling does not suddenly grant the right to libel or slander, Kennedy argues, “a lot of times your bosses will sugarcoat what’s going on” at work. To post to social media, however, “really puts the spotlight on them,” he says, encouraging workers to “tweet at your bosses and your bosses’ bosses.”

This new ruling will affect workers across the nation who have or may have lost their jobs over social media postings. In one example, a teen in Texas last year received global attention after she was fired before even starting her job at a pizzeria. “Ew I start this f***ing job tomorrow,” she had tweeted, before her would-be boss tweeted back that she should not bother to show up for her first shift. The story stirred up controversy on social media around the world, with many users lambasting the pizzeria owner’s decision. Was that a foolish thing for that teen to tweet? Probably. Did she deserve to lose her job over it? Legally speaking, probably not.

As organization and mobilization around social issues now sprout on the Internet and grow through social media platforms, guaranteeing a worker’s ability to express themselves is crucial to safeguarding the labor rights that working class Americans struggled for a century before the first tweet was sent.

Photo Credit: proshob / Wikimedia Commons

61 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Sen Heijkamp
Sayenne H1 years ago

Thanks

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Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI1 years ago

thank you for this article

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Janis K.
Janis K1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Janet B.
Janet B1 years ago

Thanks

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Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle1 years ago

Good for the Courts. I am glad that they are supporting the rights of workers.

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Elaine Al Meqdad
Elaine Al Meqdad1 years ago

IF ANYONE IS UP TO NO GOOD, IT WILL CATCH UP TO YOU!

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 1 years ago

So be it!

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