Federal: Facebook Comment Regarding Injured Worker’s Medical Condition May Subject Employer to Liability under ADA

Federal: Facebook Comment Regarding Injured Worker’s Medical Condition May Subject Employer to Liability under ADA

A federal district court has refused to dismiss a civil action filed against a company by a former employee who claimed that a former coworker, who processed workers’ compensation claims for the company, violated § 102 of the Americans With Disabilities Act’s by posting a derogatory comment about the former employee’s medical condition on her Facebook page.  The coworker commented on Facebook that it was “amazing” that the former employee had missed just one month of work after a “5-way” heart bypass, but that a work-related shoulder injury had kept him away from work for 11 months implying, contended the plaintiff former employee, that he was a malingerer. Plaintiff alleged the coworker’s Facebook post was linked to the coworker’s business email address and was, therefore, available to the business communities in the area where the plaintiff was trying to get work. The quoted statement remained on Ms. Stewart's Facebook page for 76 days.  The company contended the ADA confidentiality provision was not applicable since plaintiff, in a separate lawsuit against the employer, had made a voluntary public disclosure of his medical.  The district court said there was an issue of fact as to whether the co-worker obtained information through the company's job-related medical inquiry, that prospective employers refused to hire him because of the comment, and that he suffered an emotional distress injury under the ADA.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Shoun v. Best Formed Plastics, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84868 (N.D. Ind., June 23, 2014) [2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84868 (N.D. Ind., June 23, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 127.10 [127.10]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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