Retaliation Lawsuit Filed After Social Media Postings
Sometimes, social media, employers and workers just shouldn’t mix. At least, that’s the logical conclusion in the case of a lawsuit filed by former employees of Coyote Ugly Saloon.
The trouble began when several current and former employees of the corporation filed a lawsuit against Coyote Ugly. The complaint alleged that employees had not received compensation for hours they were forced to work off the clock. Moreover, the suit pursued damages for illegal tip practices. Plaintiffs alleged that bar security workers were allowed to share in the tip pool although the practice should have been prohibited.
Most corporations accept the occasional lawsuit as part of the cost of doing business. Under the advice of attorneys, most employers refrain from commenting publicly with regard to ongoing legal matters. However, this practice seems to be changing as social media applications become increasingly prevalent. The problems associated with this phenomenon are highlighted by this case.
Coyote Ugly CEO Liliana Lovell, who writes a regular blog on the company website, made comments on her blog that were related to the recently filed lawsuit. In the post, Lovell noted that the plaintiff, Misty Blu Stewart, had been terminated for theft. The post also went on to refer to Stewart in a derogatory fashion, although Stewart’s name never actually appeared in the post.
Concurrently, another plaintiff in the case, Sarah Stone, discovered a Facebook post by a company manager that referred to a desire to kill a bartender who was suing him. The post was made while the manager was being served by Sarah Stone, whom he knew was involved in the suit.
As a result of both online postings, Stewart and Stone filed a further lawsuit, this time claiming retaliation on the part of their former employer. The court recently dismissed a motion by the defendants that would have put an end to the suit, meaning that a judge is likely to hear the case in the coming months. In the meantime, it seems prudent for employers to refrain from commenting in social media on legal matters in even the vaguest terms.