Facebook Posts of Mexico Vacation Lead to Firing for FMLA Abuse
A Detroit nurse out on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave
for a back and leg injury was fired after Facebook posts showed her vacationing
in Mexico. Her doctor certified the need for her leave due to substantial
lifting and mobility restrictions. But several Facebook posts showed the nurse
in Mexico riding in a boat; lying on a bed holding up two bottles of beer.
She also posted other details about her life that seemed inconsistent with her leave, including pictures of herself holding her grandchildren while standing (one in each arm), details about trips to Home Depot, “watching” the grandchildren and taking online classes.
Co-workers who were Facebook “friends” of the nurse told management. While on leave, the nurse sent an email to her boss complaining that she never received a get-well card from staff.
Her boss replied that: “the staff were waiting until you came back from your vacation in Mexico to determine the next step. Since you were well enough to travel on a 4+ hour flight, wait in customs lines, bus transport, etc., we were assuming you would be well enough to come back to work.”
The nurse responded that she used wheelchairs at the airports, but eventually conceded that this was a lie and that she had been able to stand for 30 minutes while waiting in airport lines.
She was terminated for violating a company policy on dishonesty and for misuse of FMLA leave. A federal court in Michigan upheld the termination. Lineberry v. Richards (E.D. Mi. February 5, 2013)
Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content
Controlling FMLA leave and other leaves of absences can be an important issue for employers. For assistance, turn to HRCalifornia’s Controlling Vacation and Paid Time Off page in the HR Library.