An arbitrator has found “just cause” for a nurse’s termination after she violated her employer’s social media policy by making offensive Facebook comments regarding demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd.
The Facebook Post
In 2020, demonstrations took place in Lakeland, Florida over the death of George Floyd. The nurse in question, upon seeing an internet video of black people surrounding a white man in his car, shared the video to her Facebook account with the following comment: “Bunch of shit bag, wild ass animals is all I see here! That person in the car should’ve shot all of them!!! They are endangering his life!”
Subsequently, the nurse was identified as a staff member of Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center (the “hospital”) in Lakeland, Florida.
The hospital had a social media policy that applied to an employee’s non-work time, and the nurse had already received extensive training about her employer’s social media policies. The hospital also had a practice of terminating employees who violated the social media policies.
Due to the public reaction to the nurse’s post, the hospital received several complaints and boycott threats. After an internal investigation conducted by the hospital, the hospital terminated the nurse for violating the hospital’s social media policies. The nurse filed a grievance in arbitration.
The arbitrator denied the nurse’s grievance, ruling that the hospital had just cause to terminate her for violating the hospital’s social media policies. The arbitrator concluded that if the nurse had not been disciplined for sharing the Facebook post publicly, there was a “substantial likelihood” that the hospital would suffer “adverse consequences.” The nurse risked the hospital’s reputation and potentially jeopardized millions of dollars in federal reimbursements. The violation justified the hospital’s decision to skip disciplinary steps and terminate her straightaway.
While the arbitrator’s ruling may be questionable under California law, the ruling makes one thing clear: employers often look at employee postings, so employees should think twice about publicly posting offensive or negative content online.
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