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Monday, September 16, 2013

Nurse Fired for Facebook Posts Shared by Coworker "Friend"

Today's lesson?   Your Facebook friends may not turn out to be so "friendly" so think carefully before accepting or making "friend requests."  

A nurse and paramedic at a non-profit hospital maintained a Facebook page with privacy settings that limited access only to her Facebook friends. Although the nurse did not list any hospital supervisors as "friends," she was Facebook friends with several of her coworkers.  One of those coworkers turned out to be less than "friendly" when he shared with hospital management the following statement posted by the nurse on her Facebook wall in 2009:
An 88 yr old sociopath white supremacist opened fire in the Wash D.C. Holocaust Museum this morning and killed an innocent guard (leaving children). Other guards opened fire. The 88 yr old was shot. He survived. I blame the DC paramedics. I want to say 2 things to the DC medics. 1. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? and 2. This was your opportunity to really make a difference! WTF!!!! And to the other guards....go to target practice.
Shortly after the nurse's coworkers took a screenshot of the post and showed it to a hospital manager, the nurse was suspended with pay.  She filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), but lost when the NLRB ruled in favor of the hospital. Two years later, after the nurse had accrued an extensive number of disciplinary "points," the hospital terminated her.   The nurse then filed a lawsuit in the district court of New Jersey against the hospital, challenging her termination on a variety of grounds, including violations of the Federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) and Invasion of Privacy relating to her Facebook postings from 2009.   Ehling v. Monmouth Hosp. Serv. Corp., (U.S. Dist. Ct. NJ, August 20, 2013).

With respect to the SCA claim, the court first determined that her Facebook posts were covered under the SCA because the communications were private based on the security settings on her Facebook account.  However, the court applied the "authorized user" exception to the nurse's posts because the coworker who accessed and shared the Facebook postings with hospital management provided the communications voluntarily to hospital management, and was not coerced or pressured to provide this information. The coworker was determined to be an "authorized user" because he was a Facebook friend of the nurse's. Therefore, the hospital was not liable under the SCA.

With respect to the nurse's claim that the hospital violated her right to privacy in accessing her Facebook account, the court found no intentional invasion by the hospital because the information was voluntarily provided by the nurse to the coworker, who in turn voluntarily provided it to hospital management.  
In finding in favor of the hospital on all counts, the court concluded that there "may have been a violation of trust, but it was not a violation of privacy."

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.




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