FMLA News: Overactive Nurse Done In by Facebook Posts

If you're into rhyming mnemonic devices, a relevant one for workers on leave could be: "If you're out on FMLA, better watch how much you play."

The California Chamber's HR Watchdog blog tells the tale of a nurse in Detroit who was not only quite active while on leave, but documented her hijinx on Facebook. Needless to say, her employer and coworkers were less than enthusiastic about how she was milking the company.

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)