No one likes to be sued. It may make you mad enough that you want to scream and holler on the Internet. There is a reason, however, a lot of lawyers recommend not commenting on personnel issues and pending litigation.
Take a lesson from Coyote Ugly that does not involve dancing on the bar. The lesson is — don’t go to the Internet to rail on your former employees when they file a Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage case against you.
About a month after a group of employees filed suit against the Coyote Ugly Saloons, the president of the chain of Coyote Ugly Saloons went to her “Lil Spill” blog and wrote:
This particular case will end up pissing me off[,] cause it is coming from someone we terminated for theft. I have to believe in my heart that[,] somewhere down the road, bad people end up facing bad circumstances!
I have been reading the basics of Buddhism[,] and am going to a class on Monday. The Buddhist way would be to find beauty in the situation and release anger knowing that peace will come. Obviously, I am still a very new Buddhist[,] cause my thoughts are “[f***k] that [b**ch.]” Let me do my breathing exercises and see if any of my thoughts change. Lol .
A slightly different take then, say, Warren Buffet may have taken. The subject of the post had already been reinstated by the time the blog post was published.
To add to the fire, a supervisor allegedly posted on Facebook when drunk about another plaintiff who was still employed but had joined the suit: “Dear God, please don’t let me kill the girl that is suing me . . . . that is all . . . .”
The result of these diatribes was a retaliation claim in addition the underlying minimum wage claims. The federal district court in Tennessee recently allowed both claims to continue. You can read the opinion here.
I am not an employment lawyer, but I know enough to warn clients you can almost get into more trouble for retaliating against an employee for making an overtime, workers’ compensation, minimum wage, harassment or discrimination complaint than you can for the underlying complaint. My colleague Michael Kelsheimer has written on retaliation on his Employer’s Handbook blog.
The emedia law lessons seem almost too obvious. I’ve never thought to add “don’t let your supervisors post to about your employees while drunk” to my social media policies. The real lesson is to train your employees and have policies. Considering the founder was the first to take to the Internet, I’m not sure there was much respect for policies or compliance. Your business, I am guessing, is probably different. You should have policies and plans in place regarding who can say what about pending claims and what is and is not appropriate to do on the Internet.