Lesson learned: If you run a fast-food restaurant or any company for that matter, you’d better treat your employees right. After all, they have a legal right to tweet all they want about you.

14DA Chipotle Mexican Grill in Havertown, PA, had a ban in place: Employees are prohibited from using social media to spread “inaccurate information” or “disparaging, false or misleading statements.”

But the National Labor Relations Board recently deemed that this rule violates federal labor law, even though an employee, James Kennedy, had tweeted less-than-favorable information about working conditions and had also circulated a petition (that the franchise tried to ban).

Chipotle violated the NRLA, according to the administrative law judge, when it demanded that Kennedy cease tweeting and delete the other tweets.

Another violation on Chipotle’s part was the firing of Kennedy, who had refused to stop circulating a petition among coworkers after a manager ordered him to do so. Kennedy’s use of social media was a protected activity under the law, and so was his circulation of the petition. The establishment was ordered to reinstate Kennedy and pay him lost wages.

Just what exactly was Chipotle’s rule about circulating a petition? It barred employees from doing this even during non-working hours and within visual or hearing range of patrons.

Chipotle was ordered by the NLRB to reverse its rules pertaining to social media and solicitation of petitions. And believe it or not, Chipotle even had a policy in place that banned discussing politics on the job. This ban, too, was lifted, courtesy of NRLB’s order.

Chipotle corporate was also required to make sure that all of its employees in the U.S. would be made aware of these policy reversals.

As of August 19, neither Chipotle nor its legal team have responded to any requests to comment.

Frankly, as an employer, this ruling is scary. And knowing employees often blather on about anything and everything, this ruling may open a can of worms that can’t be put back in.

Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

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