tip jar photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/davedugdale/ www.rentvine.com
Everyone has a bad day and needs to vent now and then — but you have to be careful when you share your frustrations online. No one understands that lesson better than Kirsten Kelly, who was fired from her waitress job at Texas Roadhouse for complaining about tips on Facebook.

Kelly posted:

“If you come into a restaurant and spend $50 or more, you should be able to tip appropriately for that.”

It seems that she thought it was safe to share her frustration on Facebook among friends, but what she didn’t realize was that one of her customers, a former classmate and Facebook friend, was listening. That customer took a screen shot of Kelly’s post, printed it, and brought it to the attention of Texas Roadhouse management.

Kelly was ultimately fired for her post, though she says her post was intentionally vague, and never mentioned a specific customer or Texas Roadhouse.

“They told me that I knew what I was doing when I posted that, and they would have to let me go because a customer came in [who had] printed off a screen shot of it,” Kelly said. “And they were really upset.”

Kelly explained her frustration and the reason why she posted:

“I was mad. 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 $5 or $6. That’s not OK.”

Texas Roadhouse representative Travis Doster explained that Kelly was fired due to using “derogatory and abusive language towards a guest.”

“It is not a social media issue, it is a matter of respect,” Doster said. “She deleted the posts prior to calling the TV station so the media story fails to provide what she called the guest or other details. Texas Roadhouse does not tolerate offensive language towards guests, whether it occurs online, offline or even in the parking lot.”

Texas Roadhouse employees are not allowed to mention the restaurant on their social media accounts per corporate policy. Still, Kelly says she was surprised to be let go.

“I mean, I knew that they could have yelled at me for that, but I didn’t think they could fire me for posting that,” said Kelly.

Kelly’s not the only one to suffer a similar fate. An Applebee’s waitress was fired for posting a receipt from a pastor who only wanted to give 10%. A Chili’s waitress posted, “Stupid Cops better hope I’m not their server FDP.” She was fired. And Brixx Wood Fired Pizza waitress Ashley Johnson was also fired for posting about lingering customers on Facebook: “Thanks for eating at Brixx,” she wrote, “you cheap piece of —- camper.”

In Johnson’s case, it’s not clear how Brixx found out about the posting. With a private page and only about 100 Facebook friends that she knows personally, Johnson doesn’t know where the leak came from.

Both Johnson and Kelly’s firings illustrate an important point about posting on social media: even with a private page, nothing is private anymore. You may forget who you’ve friended, think you know someone better than you do, or simply step outside of a friend’s comfort zone and prompt them to share what they’ve read. There’s nothing stopping any of your contacts from taking a screen shot of your post or printing it out to share with others.

It’s also very important to be aware of the company policies you’ve agreed to. Employees of Texas Roadhouse are not allowed to post about the restaurant online, or use offensive language towards a guest in any medium. Brixx Wood Fired Pizza companies can’t insult customers or speak ill about the company on social networks.

It’s clear that Facebook can get you fired, whether your page is private or not. How can you play it safe on social media and save your job (and your reputation)?

  • Keep controversy off of social media. Talking badly about customers, complaining about work, or venting about how much you hate the company you work for is a big no-no. It’s also important to avoid sharing confidential information about your employer. If you have to vent about work, go old school and do it in person or over the phone.
  • Know company policy. It’s essential that you read and understand the company policies that you agreed to when you were hired. But, keep in mind that even if your employee handbook doesn’t specify that you can’t post about the company, customers, or anything else on social media, you can still be fired. Under at-will employment, most employees can be fired at any time if the company feels it’s necessary.
  • Be careful who you friend. It’s not foolproof, but keeping a tight friend list can help you stay out of trouble. Everyone you’re connected with should be someone you know and trust. Even if you’re close, think twice before friending coworkers or your boss.
  • Don’t play on social media at work. Making a social media mistake is unfortunate, but it’s even worse when you do it at work. Limit your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media activity to your own time and your own devices. You should avoid engaging on social media while you’re on company property and time.
  • Never post anything illegal online. It’s not just talking about customers that you should be worried about: employees have been fired for posting about drinking and doing illegal drugs, especially when it goes against company policy.
  • Consider every post public. Even if you’re careful about your friends list and have your privacy locked down, what you post can be shared. That’s why you should always consider everything you post online to be publicly available.