First off, I love tacos and they are a Texas staple that can be found all over from the taqueria stands, fancy food trucks to the tons of Tex-Mex Restaurants. That being said, it’s a bad week for taco shells. Taco Bell is in the news for the alleged Taco Bell taco shells that were photographed being licked by one of their employees and then posted to the world of Facebook. This is not the first time that a corporation has had an employee do bad things to their products and broadcast them. Often times I wonder, did the employee seek revenge to take down the multi-million dollar such corporation and tarnish their carefully built brand with their customers? Or did the employee just do something provocative that they found funny and it became an accidental viral sensation. Either way, the company has to have the policies in place to deal with the employees involved and the general public commotion they have caused. Unfortunately for any business, the employee is an extension of their reputation and even the silliest of pranks can leave long lasting impressions.
There are three different issues going on a situation like this, 1) Damage Control for the Brand (i.e. what were the circumstances, is there an immediate way to ensure the public that this is an exception?), 2) Investigation – preserve evidence and be quick about starting an immediate investigation (is there any legal issues, personal injury, FDA, OSHA, etc. that the employee has implicated the business in by such acts?), and 3) Legal Discipline and likely termination of the Employee. All three parts of this equation will involve the need for good policies. By that, I do not mean policies created after the incident. Timing in responding to all three parts of the equation is critical. If you have good policies, the decisions can be made for the corporation to quickly move forward and address these issues in a clear and consistent manner with both the public and the employees that were involved. Part of the key for Attorneys and advisors for any business is to think ahead about what policies are needed if a situation like the “licking taco shell employee” should occur.