Facebook Vacation Pictures Support Terminating Employee on FMLA Leave

The case of Lineberry v. Detroit Medical Center is yet another example of how an employee’s use of social media can lead to termination.  Ms. Lineberry was on FMLA leave for severe back and leg pain.  But while on leave she took a vacation to Mexico and posted photographs of the trip which showed her doing things that were inconsistent with her alleged condition, such as riding in a motorboat.  Her co-workers saw these pictures and complained to the Hospital.

The Hospital confronted Ms. Lineberry who admitted that she lied about needing to use a wheelchair at the airport as she prepared to travel to Mexico.  The Hospital terminated her for her dishonesty and because of  its honest belief that she abused her FMLA leave.  Based on these facts the Court dismissed Ms. Lineberry’s claim that the Hospital fired her for taking the leave in violation of the FMLA.

Two takeaways for employers.  1. FMLA leave must be used for its intended purpose; and  2.  To rely on the “honest belief” rule an employer must conduct an investigation and point to specific facts which support its belief.

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