When to snoop on employee Facebook pages

Plus: New cheap nonstop to Vegas; soccer hooligans on the way; genius pitches hammock at CLT airport

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Good morning! Today is Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Here are today’s big stories in Charlotte-area business news:

Lessons from the Pizza Peel brouhaha:

There’s been a big mess this week at the Pizza Peel, and we’re not talking about some spilled tomato sauce or a knocked-over beer. Rather, the restaurant’s owners seem to have gotten caught in the middle of a dispute on social media between one of their employees and a pro-Trump agitator.

Here’s what happened, according an onslaught of articles in the local media this week:

  • One of the Pizza Peel’s bartenders, a guy named Andrew Woods, turns out to be a prolific writer on Facebook, with posts like this:

  • A guy on Facebook, who describes himself as a pro-gay rights, pro-Trump activist, notices the post (which has since been deleted — the image above is a screenshot from the activist’s page). He brings it to the attention of Pizza Peel management and urges his 5,000+ Facebook followers to leave negative reviews on Yelp questioning why the Pizza Peel employs Woods.

  • Pizza Peel managers meet with Woods about his social media posts and, with police on hand, fire him.

  • Woods mobilizes Black Lives Matter protestors, who converge on the Pizza Peel’s Plaza-Midwood restaurant on Monday night, shutting it down and making demands of Pizza Peel owners. Protestors then start leaving negative Yelp reviews (some have been removed).

Woods, who is prone to long, rambling Facebook posts and Facebook Live videos, says he’s not mad about being fired — but rather that Pizza Peel management had police there when they fired him. He admits to Queen City Nerve that he’s not quite Employee of the Month material:

“I get fired from jobs. [I’m a] loudmouth, troublemaking communist. I’m not the most likable dude in the world. I’ve been fired. I know how to take a firing. That’s not the problem. The problem is the weaponization of police against me as a person of color. The weaponization of the police by white communities and white businesses against people of color is an act of violence against people of color.”

We don’t know all the details here, but the episode raises some intriguing questions: How did a guy with his background get hired in the first place? Should employers review the social-media posts of job candidates? Should they monitor the social-media accounts of their workers?

Bad idea: Surprisingly, a lot of human resources professionals say hitting Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for info on employees and potential hires is not a wise move.

That’s because typically, social media provides only extraneous information about people — information that usually has no bearing on their work performance. Sometimes, using that information can be legally perilous.

Stephanie Dillon, who gives advice on employment compliance and employee relations to Charlotte-area companies for The Employers Association, says she gets calls all the time from employers who want to know how to handle something they’ve seen on social media from one of their workers. (We talked generally about companies and social media, not about the Pizza Peel in particular.)

Often, it’s just workers griping or something else that’s gone on since the dawn of time and is no big deal. But if they happen to become aware of material that is discriminatory or threatening, employers should take some action.

“If it is something serious enough and it comes across HR’s desk, ask yourself, ‘Is this something we need to pursue?’” Dillon says. “Is it going to cause overall harm? Is it going to be a safety concern? If the answers are no, I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Legally vulnerable: Same with potential hires. If employers snoop on applicants’ social media posts, they might learn information that they are legally barred from considering — such as religion and age. So if they glean that information and don’t hire the applicant, they could be legally vulnerable.

Dillon: “If you’re patrolling Bob Smith’s Facebook page, you could see that somebody wrote, ‘Happy birthday, old man! Hope you are recovering from surgery! See you at your daughter’s bat mitzvah!’ … An employer just learned this person is potentially protected in three categories: age, disability and religion. If it’s uncovered in a social media check as part of your hiring process, the use of that information could come into question. It’s just not worth it. Keep it job-related.”

Advice: “Your social media policy should reference other company policies, such as anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, conflicts-of-interest and confidentiality. Make it clear that these policies apply equally to online conduct just as they do in the physical workplace.” — The Employers Association

Of course, just because looking on social media might be unwise doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. A poll of HR managers last year found:

  • 48% said they use social media to research current employees (with 10% doing it daily)

  • 34% have found online content leading them to discipline or fire an employee

  • 70% use social media to research job candidates

Source: Survey of 1,000 hiring managers by Career Builder/The Harris Poll

Tough one for the Pizza Peel. It does seem as though more businesses are getting caught up in political movements these days when they would prefer to stay out of them.

Brace for soccer hooligans

Charlotte will host another international soccer match this summer at Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers announced this morning:

The International Champions Cup is coming back to Bank of America Stadium.

Arsenal of the English Premier League and AS Roma of Italy's Serie A will face off in Charlotte on Saturday, July 20 at 6 p.m.

This match marks the fifth time that a tournament game has been played at Bank of America Stadium, including matches in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Nothing better than watching … international soccer … in the middle of July … in Charlotte, amirite?

(Thanks to a Charlotte Ledger reader for flagging this — tips always welcome. Email to editor@cltledger.com)

Housing prices still rising:

Charlotte housing prices are continuing to rise faster than the national average, according to new figures released Tuesday.

Out of 20 cities, Charlotte was one of five that posted higher home prices in January compared with December, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices (say that five times fast). Year over year, Charlotte home prices rose 5.1%, compared with the national average of 4.3%.

Beer, architecture, more beer:

The Observer is offloading SouthPark magazine, selling it to the parent company of Business North Carolina magazine, the companies announced this week.

Terms weren’t disclosed. This description of the vision caught our eye:

The plans call for SouthPark magazine to take a broad view of the arts, focusing on architecture, interior design, performance arts, literature, bartending and beer-making.

The only thing growing faster in this city than craft breweries seem to be the publications that cover them.

Tax him:

Data point: Marsicano earned $673,000 in compensation from Foundation for the Carolinas in 2016, according to the most recent tax records available.

Viva Las Vegas

Nonstops to Vegas for $140 round trip? Yes, please.

Frontier Airlines on Tuesday announced new daily nonstops between Charlotte and Las Vegas starting on July 10, with fares starting at $69 one-way. Those fares look to be going fast, and the fare sale ends March 31. Oh, and that’s for travel only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But still.

American Airlines seems disinclined to match those fares. Theirs are still going in the $350+ round-trip range.

Be warned that if you fly Frontier, the airline will try to charge you for every conceivable thing, including carry-on bags.

Loves me some internet

We’ve all been there. Sleepy. At the airport. Nothing but uncomfortable chairs.

But this hero found a workaround:

Fox News explains:

A traveler passing through Charlotte Douglas International Airport was spotted hanging from a hammock he set up in the early hours of Sunday morning, SWNS reports.

The man, who was not identified, had even fallen asleep inside the hammock, which he appeared to have slung above the windows at one of the departures areas.

A witness says the man was eventually approached by an airport worker, after which he came down from his comfy perch.

“She tapped the hammock and his head just poked up,” eyewitness Magalli Odom told SWNS. “He looked quite tired and dozy so he must have been asleep for some time.

“I didn’t hear what was said but he was very compliant and used the chairs to help himself down,” she added. “I just thought it was genius. I only wish that I had one too.”

Carolinas & Beyond

  • Recognition: Congrats are in order to the crack Observer journalists Deon Roberts, Adam Bell and Bruce Henderson, who won a national business reporting award for the paper’s coverage of Wells Fargo. Another award recipient is your humble correspondent, whose article last year for the Weekly Standard on the battle against telemarketers won in the technology category.

  • Mission control: Jacksonville, N.C., native and N.C. State grad Christina Koch will make her first spacewalk on Friday from the International Space Station, according to Business North Carolina magazine. The flight engineer also attended the N.C. School of Science and Math.

  • Thank you, meh: “I have to say, I think the average consumer is going to look at the offer from the new Apple Card and say, ‘Meh.’” — Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards by LendingTree, on LinkedIn

Off the Clock

Low-key ideas for the weekend

Big-time sports on TV:


  • NCAA Tournament, 7pm-midnight


  • NCAA Tournament: Auburn vs. UNC, 7:29pm

  • NCAA Tournament: Va. Tech vs. Duke, 9:30pm (est)

  • Hornets @ Lakers, 10:30pm


  • NCAA Tournament, 6pm-11pm


  • NCAA Tournament, 2pm-7pm

  • Hornets @ Warriors, 8:30pm

Movies opening in Charlotte this weekend:
  • Dumbo (PG) (Rotten Tomatoes: 52%): Live-action elephant flies

  • Hotel Mumbai (R) (70%): Terrorists attack Indian hotel

  • The Beach Bum (R) (55%): Stoners have wacky misadventures

  • Unplanned (R): Abortion provider changes outlook

Highly rated movies now playing:
  • Us (R) (Rotten Tomatoes: 95%)

  • Captain Marvel (PG-13) (78%)

  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG) (91%)

  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (PG) (86%)

Cheap getaways from CLT:

Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.