A McDonald's Employee Posted These Gross Photos and Got Fired

July 27th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

An employee at a McDonald's in Louisiana posted photos of a tray inside an ice cream machine—and now he doesn't have job.

A teen named Nick, who only wanted his first name published in a Buzzfeed interview, tweeted photos on July 14 of a dirty tray he discovered while cleaning an ice cream machine. In the interview, he said he was refilling the machine when he spilled some of the ice cream. While cleaning up the mess, he pulled out a tray on the machine  to make sure he didn't get any inside. There he found something gross. 

He also pointed out that the machine can still serve ice cream in this state. 

He also showed other parts of the McDonald's that were dirty. 

On July 19, he tweeted that he was fired, but that he expected it. 

Nick told Buzzfeed that he and other employees were never told to clean the machine. 

ATTN: contacted the Louisiana Health Department about the photos. Communications Director Robert Johannessen said the department is currently conducting an investigation. 

"We received this picture yesterday [Wednesday], we are handling it as a complaint and will investigate appropriately," he said. There are two McDonald's in the area and neither of them have any been previously cited for health code violations, according to the department. 

Can businesses fire employees for what they post on social media?

Generally, yes. Constitutional free speech rights only apply to the government; private companies can generally set their own polices about social media use. However, depending on the nature of the post, there are some posts that are protected. The National Labor Relations Board, a federal government agency, posted guidelines about social media use. 

Employees do have the right to post—as part of a group—about conditions at their jobs, even if they aren't in a union. 

"The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work, with or without a union," wrote the agency in post. "This protection extends to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter." However, that may not apply if workers are posting on behalf of themselves, not a group. 

New Orleans -based employment law attorney Victor Farrugia said it's not surprising the McDonald's fired Nick. 

"You're publishing bad images of the company you work for and, from the company's perspective, that's not what you want your employees doing," he said. Farrugia added that—besides employees who work for the government or are in a union—Louisiana is an "at-will" employment state, which means employers can fire an employee at any time for almost any reason.

"This is not the way I believe it should be, but this is the way the law is," Farrugia said.

Employers can't fire someone just because of their race, age, gender, disability—or for being a whistleblower. Farrugia said that if Nick had, instead of posting tweets, complained about the dirty machine to management and then got sacked as a result, that would be a problem. 

"If that person had gone to his boss and said, 'hey, this violates state law by having the machines like this,' that's covered under the whistleblower statue," he said. "He cant be fired for that. That's definitely a retaliation." 

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