A Texas Roadhouse waitress in Findlay, Ohio was fired early this week after venting on Facebook about bad tippers, Toledo News Now first reported. Kristen Kelly wrote the post after a particularly bad Friday at the restaurant, where she only made $60 in tips. The post, which has since been deleted, explained that customers who spend $50 or more in a restaurant should be able to tip accordingly — such as the standard 18 percent of the total bill.
“I was mad,” Kelly told Toledo News Now. “It was a Friday night and I made $60 because I had several people that night who weren’t tipping appropriately. More than one time, people spent $50 or more and they tipped five or six (dollars). That’s not OK!”
While Kelly said she didn’t name any of the customers in the post and tried to be vague, one of her Facebook friends and former classmate who visited the restaurant that day complained about the post to the restaurant manager. The manager fired her for calling a customer a derogatory name in the post.
Texas Roadhouse did not immediately return a request for comment on its social media policy, but according to Toledo News Now, the restaurant chain bans any mention of the restaurant’s name in social media.
Social media has inextricably linked the personal with the professional, allowing employers to find out intimate details about you with a quick Google search. More employers are implementing policies that make it easy for people to get fired for posting pictures, blogs or making comments on social media. A Red Lobster in Nashville, Tennessee fired a server after she posted a picture of a receipt from a racist customer who didn’t tip her because of her ethnicity. Last year, a server at Chili’s was fired after posting a picture of local police officers who came into the restaurant with the caption, “Stupid Cops better hope I’m not their server FDP [fuck da police].” In 2009, a Georgia teacher was forced to resign after posting pictures of herself holding glasses of beer and wine while on vacation.
Checking out potential job applicants’ social media profiles has become more commonplace, but some companies — as well as colleges — have gone even further by making current and potential employees turn over their usernames and passwords for Facebook and Twitter as a condition of employment. Only 12 states have outlawed the practice. Social media activity has also been used to weed out applicants based on their ethnicity or religious affiliation. A Carnegie Mellon experiment studying fake applicants found that job seekers who publicly identified as Christian were called back almost nine times a much as their Muslim counterparts.
Overall, social media policies aim to protect the company’s reputation, barring employees from attributing personal beliefs or polarizing comments to their professional job. But while these policies are legal, some flirt with violating free speech rights. For example, the Kansas Board of Regents, which governs state universities, passed a policy that let schools reserve the right to fire teachers and other employees for improperly using social media. The controversial policy didn’t specify what types of online activity could lead to termination, leaving seemingly innocuous behavior such as posting about your personal life on Facebook, using profanity or quoting literary text potentially punishable by the school.
Federal regulators have tried to rein in such blanket policies at companies including Target and General Motors to ensure employees can speak freely without fear of losing their jobs. Whether it’s in the office or on social media, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that employees have the right to talk about work conditions without threats of professional retaliation, according to The New York Times.
Moreover, bans on disparaging or unflattering comments are illegal if they discourage employees from speaking frankly with one another in effort to improve their work environment, the board ruled. In several cases, the NLRB ruled in favor of employees who vented online about their jobs because they were complaining about work conditions such as wages. The board decided a non-profit, Hispanics United of Buffalo, illegally fired an employee for posting about his workload on Facebook and three other employees who commented. One post read, “Try doing my job. I have five programs. What the hell, we don’t have a life as is.”
Texas Roadhouse spokesman Travis Doster sent the following statement to ThinkProgress:
“[Kristen] Kelly was terminated for violating our policy on Respect for Others, specifically using derogatory, abusive or threatening language towards a guest. Calling a guest an ‘ASS—-’ is not okay at any time or in any venue. Texas Roadhouse does not tolerate offensive language towards guests, whether it occurs online, offline or even in the parking lot. This is not a social media or Facebook issue. This is a respect issue. She admitted she knew it was wrong, but chose to do so anyway.”
In an email exhange, Doster also said, Kelly’s profile and several other Facebook posts mentioned the Texas Roadhouse name.