The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits an employer from disclosing confidential information about an employee’s medical condition. As one Indiana company recently learned, that includes disclosure on employees’ social networks, too.
In Shoun v Best Formed Plastics, Inc., an Indiana federal case reported on the Employment Law Daily website, the plaintiff injured his shoulder at work and then filed a workers’ compensation claim. A year later, he brought suit against his company in state court seeking compensation for his injury.
Five days after the complaint was filed, a coworker responsible for processing the worker’s compensation claims, posted on her Facebook page, “Isn’t it amazing how [another employee] experienced a 5 way heart bypass just one month ago and is back to work, especially when you consider [the plaintiff’s] shoulder injury kept him away from work for 11 months and now he is trying to sue us.” Plaintiff then brought a claim against the company for its wrongful disclosure of his medical information, in violation of the ADA.
The company filed a motion to dismiss the ADA claim, arguing that the plaintiff voluntarily disclosed the confidential information about his work injury and medical condition when he publicly filed the state court action. The company also argued that the plaintiff didn’t suffer a tangible injury because of the disclosure. The court disagreed with the employer, finding that there was a basis for an ADA claim for the following reasons:
- The post was visible to prospective employers and business contacts (remaining on the coworker’s Facebook page for 76 days)
- The post was linked to the business email and a large number of business communities
- The coworker acquired the information about his medical condition through an employment related medical inquiry
Further, the court held that the plaintiff had, in fact, suffered injury due to the improper disclosure: prospective employers refused to hire him and he experienced emotional distress – injuries recognized by the ADA.
This case is again an example of how social networking sites can expose employers to litigation if they do not implement and enforce workplace social media policies and monitor employees’ posts. If you have questions or concerns about how an employee’s or coworker’s use of social media may have harmed you, the Employment Litigation attorneys at Sommers Schwartz are here to help – call us today for a free consultation.