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Waitress Serves Up Social Media and HR Firestorm for Restaurant

Posted on: February 4th, 2013 | Category: Our Blog

Imagine if Flo had a smartphone and a Twitter account.
Just imagine if Flo had a smartphone at Mel’s Diner.

What is with all the company communications blunders making big waves in social media lately? It’s enough to make HR directors everywhere cringe in empathy for their suffering brethren dealing with these problems.

We read another spectacular news story about a single awkward incident going viral and wreaking havoc. Although it’s not as risqué a tale as we reported on last Wednesday—no naughty email exchanges between cozy coworkers—it still brought plenty of unwelcome attention a St. Louis-area Applebee’s.

Yahoo! News reports that when Alois Bell scratched out an auto-generated tip recommendation for parties of eight people or more on her bill and then wrote “I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18?”, it caught the attention of another server at the restaurant, Chelsea Welch. Welch let the incident be known by posting about it on Reddit. Surprise, surprise: the story and an image of the handwritten note on the bill went viral. Big time. Welch was then fired.

From Yahoo! News:

A spokesman for Applebee’s said it apologized to Bell for violating her “right to privacy” and confirmed that Welch “is no longer employed by the franchise.”

Welch was surprised that Applebee’s fired her, “especially because there was nothing specific in the employee handbook admonishing this behavior.”

Egads! There was nothing specifically stated in the Applebee’s employee handbook about the company’s social media policy and/or respecting customer privacy? Does there need to be? Should the employee have been fired? So many questions!


“This is going to make a great cautionary tale on so many levels for clients,” says hireVision’s Director of Hiring Management Bonnie Levitt, MSW, PHR, “On a basic level, we can talk about making sure they have gotten their company policies and handbooks up to date. On a higher level, we can work on providing meaningful training and support for managers and employees so that they understand how their social media use can affect their company, be aware of it and make better choices so that these sticky situations don’t strike their place of employment.” It requires a company culture shift in some cases, says Levitt, but the results can go way beyond simply preventing social media blunders. “Developing an environment that gives employees a sense of pride and ownership in your company’s reputation and success increases employee satisfaction and productivity, and it reduces turnover.  After all, who doesn’t want to be on a winning team?”

That’s not to say that having a clear social media policy for your employees isn’t also important. Making sure employees know what the company expects and allows should also be part of your game plan.


As we wrote about last fall, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that companies cannot inhibit employees from criticizing the working conditions or management via social media. These rulings have left many employers struggling to find ways to create social media policies that comply and still protect the name and reputation of their businesses. This means that employee handbooks are more important than ever.

hireVision creates customized employee handbooks as one of our many HR DirectLink services. These are not your grandfather’s handbooks—we know yours must be a clear representation of your unique organization. We are experts at putting together well-written, up-to-date handbooks that you will be proud to distribute and that will go a long way in improving employee relations. We comprehensibly outline your expectations, policies and legal obligations as an employer, and we also make certain your employees’ commitments and rights are spelled out in clear and easy to read terms.

Contact us today for more information about our employee handbook services, or any of our HR service outsourcing.

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