Burger King Fires Employees over Web Postings

May 14, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Burger King on Tuesday announced it fired two employees following the disclosure of Internet activity regarding the company's issues with a farmworker advocacy group.

The Associated Press reports the company also said it is discontinuing the use of a private investigation firm whose president allegedly posed as a student activist to infiltrate the farmworker group and its supporters. Burger King is in discussions with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers over how to improve wages and working conditions for Florida’s tomato pickers.

“Following an investigation, Burger King Corporation has terminated two employees who participated in unauthorized activity on public Web sites which did not reflect the company’s views and which were in violation of company policy,” the company said in a statement, according to the AP.

The AP said it received an email in January from an individual purporting to support the coalition that appeared to be sent from Burger King’s server. An AP investigation found that in March, an individual using the same password-protected email account sent a message to a student group that supports the coalition, claiming to be a University of Virginia graduate student named “Kevin” who wanted to help.

The individual asked to listen in on the group’s strategy call regarding efforts to pressure Burger King to pay more for its Florida tomatoes, but when asked to identify himself further, he did not respond.

In addition, a local paper identified Web postings linked to Burger King Vice President Stephen Grover describing the coalition as “an attack organization lining the leaders (sic) pockets …” Using his daughter’s screen name to make the posting, according to the AP, Grover continued: “They make up issues and collect money from dupes that believe their story. To (sic) bad the people protesting don’t have a clue regarding the facts. A bunch of fools!”

Companies often take action on unauthorized use of work computers during work time, but the action against Grover is another example of employers making employees’ personal business their own business (See Feature: When Big Brother Is Watching ).

As for the private investigation firm, the same student group that received the email from “Kevin” reported that Cara Schaffer, head of Diplomatic Tactical Services, also posed as a student interested in the coalition’s activities. The firm’s Web site says it specializes in labor relations, including covert and overt surveillance, the AP reported.

Burger King’s Chief Executive Officer John Chidsey in a company statement: “Neither I nor any of my senior management team were aware of or condone the unauthorized activities in question.”