The Charlotte Observer published a story recently about a waitress who was fired for ranting on her Facebook page about a couple who stayed for a three hour lunch and left only a $5.00 tip. The waitress, Ashley Johnson, a college student, worked at Brixx Pizza in Charlotte. On her Facebook page she wrote “thanks for eating at Brixx you cheap piece of – — camper.” Not happy with Johnson’s “private” post, the restaurant fired her for violating company policy and for casting the restaurant in a negative light.
It is well established that state and federal constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech protect individuals against action by governmental authorities. There is no such protection, however, against action by private employers. Therefore, Brixx Pizza had every right to terminate Johnson. It is also important to keep in mind that most states follow what is known as the employment-at-will rule. This means that an employee can be terminated for any reason, or for no reason at all, provided that termination does not violate any state or federal laws. Disparaging a customer in public would constitute good cause for termination under just about any standard.