Employee Termination Because of Facebook Comment Does Not End Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Today’s post comes from guest author from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

It is unclear whether, under Washington laws, Ms. Miller would be allowed continued time loss benefits. However, it is not uncommon for us to encounter this general scenario in our workers’ compensation practice, as well. When an injured worker returns to work, they can be fired “for cause” and this can result in the worker losing their ability to receive time loss compensation or to apply for unemployment compensation. Every case is different; the specific facts must be reviewed to determine whether legal action can be taken to restore time loss compensation payments after a firing.

An employee who was terminated because of comments made about her employer on Facebook has been allowed continuation of workers’ compensation benefits.

“Lawful termination, like fraud, cuts through everything; but the reasons for
firing here are murky. And whether it’s a legal termination or not isn’t a
question for this forum as workers’ compensation courts are not in the business
of determining whether a firing was appropriate. What is important here is
that termination from employment in and of itself does not end entitlement to
supplemental earnings benefits as set forth in the [Palmer v. Schooner ] case.
In the case at hand, [Ms. Miller] returned to work in a light duty status. She
worked for a short period of time until her termination on October 14, 2010.
She was terminated for violating a hospital policy by posting a comment on Facebook. 
Pursuant to Ms. Salutillo’s comments in the [CSPH] employee memorandum,
[Ms. Miller's] employment was terminated based on failure to uphold standards of
behavior. After her termination, [Ms. Miller's] treating physician took her
off work for a short period of time, but ultimately opined she could work light
duty.”

BRENDA MILLER v. CHRISTUS ST. PATRICK HOSPITAL

— So.3d —-, 2012 WL 5238000 (La.App. 3 Cir.), 2012-370 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/24/12)

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