Social media can certainly help employers in a lot of ways. But here’s an alarming example of the sad fact that even if you do everything right on social media, it can still burn you down.
Leslie’s Family Tree, a family-owned cafe in Santaquin, UT, thought what most businesses do these days: “Let’s start a Facebook page to drum up more business.”
It’s got to be regretting that thought now.
Not its own doing
A cook for the cafe, Shawn Peterson, posted what appeared to be an anti-police message to his personal Facebook page — without tagging or mentioning the cafe — and when local police officers caught wind of it, the backlash came upon Peterson’s employer, according to a report by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Peterson’s post showed an image of a man in uniform with a bullet through his forehead alongside the text, “This is what a good cop looks like.”
Peterson said he put the post up to protest news stories he’d seen on Facebook praising police officers for actions that resulted in the death of others.
He told the Tribune:
“When I get on my Facebook every day, the first thing I see is what this cop did what that cop did. The cops killed this person or that person. People were praising these cops, and I wasn’t thinking and posted that.”
A group of police officers saw that post and began reposting it in the comments section of the cafe’s Facebook page.
Suddenly, a page that’s usually filled with daily specials and entertainment announcements was riddled with negative reviews and attacks against the cafe, some of which can still be seen on the page (despite an attempt to remove them).
Peterson had no intention of involving the cafe, and even posted an apology on its Facebook page. But it wasn’t enough.
In an attempt to put out the fire, the cafe’s owner, Leslie Broadhead contacted Peterson, and the two mutually agreed the best thing to do was for Broadhead to fire Peterson.
Fuel on the fire
The cafe then posted that Peterson had been terminated and that police officers could come in and enjoy a free meal.
A sensible reaction from both a remorseful employee and a business that did nothing to bring the firestorm upon itself, right?
Apparently not. Rather than douse the flames, the cafe’s actions threw fuel on the fire.
Civil rights advocates took offense to Peterson’s firing, claiming he was simply expressing his opinion — a constitutional right — and should not have been terminated for doing so.
Family members of individuals who died in police shootings also rushed to Peterson’s defense on the cafe’s page.
More of Peterson’s comments in the Tribune report:
“Now they’re lashing out at the restaurant for firing me. I am grateful there are people who are standing up for me, but there’s no need to take it out on the restaurant. I told [Broadhead] she needed to fire me. They are great and amazing people, and they didn’t deserve any of this.”
According to the report, the back-and-forth battle between police officers and those defending Peterson has significantly hurt the cafe’s business — so much so that it’s thinking of pulling the Facebook page altogether.
No silver lining for employers here
It’s scary to think this was all the result of an employee expressing a personal opinion on personal time on his personal page, with no mention of his employer, its customers or its business.
No social media policy (at least no legal one) would’ve protected the cafe in this instance. So this stands as a stern reminder to beware of the power and the reach of the Internet — for better or worse.