Could two employees take down your business?
Would the employees get away without consequences?
When a Domino’s Pizza employee prepared sandwiches for delivery, videoed himself putting cheese up his nose and placing the nasal mucus on a sandwich as a co-worker provided narration saying “that’s how we roll at Domino’s.” The two then posted their prank on YouTube.
More than one million viewers checked out their video. As discussions spread throughout Twitter, customers reacted and Domino sales plummeted. According to the research firm YouGov which hosts daily online surveys of 1000 consumers, consumer perception of Dominos dropped from positive to negative within 48 hours.
As Dominos learned, social media has the reach and speed to turn small incidents into marketing crises. “We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea,” said Domino’s spokesperson Tim McIntrye. Although the prankster employees told Dominos they never delivered the tainted food, Dominos discarded all open containers of food, costing hundreds of dollars and fired the employees. While Dominos executives initially hoped the controversy would die down, the perpetual mushroom effect of twitter tweets reminding potential customers “when you think about Dominos, think nose snot” forced Dominos to close the store at which the employees worked. The employees face federal food tampering charges.
According to employment attorneys Tom Daniel and Danielle Ryman, employers need to get a handle on their employees’ use of social media including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs before they face their own domino effect.
Clearly, every employee’s right to privacy complicates this matter as does the fact that the National Labor Relations Act protects even non-union employees. According to section 7 of the NLRA, “employees shall have the right to ...engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Additionally section 8 states that it “shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer...to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7.”
To avoid running afoul of the NLRA, an effective, enforceable social media policy needs to clearly state that the policy doesn’t intend to prevent employee from engaging in their lawful free speech or privacy rights but instead intends to protect the company and its reputation.
Further, say Daniel and Ryman, the policy should remind employees to exercise common sense by not disclosing confidential or proprietary information or disparaging the company’s products, services, executive leadership, employees or strategies as the negative impact could affect all employees’ livelihood. Although Daniel and Ryman state the NLRA doesn’t protect employees who show disloyalty by disparaging their employer, both attorneys warn that shifting politics may impact this current employer protection.
Could one or two employees take down your business with a funny but nasty YouTube video? Absolutely. Can employees do this without consequences? That depends on your policy, its enforceability and whether the employees break other laws.