HR Management & Compliance

Social Media: An Employer’s FMLA Rant Could Cause Someone to RETALIATE

When it comes to workplace policy on social media, much attention is on the inappropriate actions of lower-level employees. But what happens when the loose cannon is the boss? One recent news article shows that in such cases, it’s best that at a minimum, the boss Find Methods to Limit Analogies.

The article in the Aug. 5 Las Vegas Sun discussed a supervisor working in Nevada state government who allegedly complained on Facebook — not on company time or using office equipment — about an employee’s use of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which he renamed in an interesting way. Here’s an excerpt:

But what if it’s the boss who decides to use Facebook to complain about an employee?

That scenario is playing out within the state’s unemployment benefits anti-fraud unit after the agency’s manager used his personal Facebook page to complain about an unidentified employee he thinks uses too much sick time.

“Why is it that for some people FMLA stands for Family Medical Leave Act and for others, it should stand for Fire My Lazy Ass?” unit manager Steven Zuelke wrote on his Facebook page last month, hours after one of his employees left work early because she said she was sick.

Apparently, Zuelke went on and on, mocking the employee and ranting “about how difficult it is for the state bureaucracy to deal with problem workers.”

He never used the employee’s name, but considering only two employees were on FMLA leave at the time, of course one of them assumed she was the target:

“I had to read it a few times because I was shocked and confused,” said Sherry Truell, a claims examiner who works in Zuelke’s unit and has used FMLA time extensively this year. “I was being referred to as lazy, an anchor, that other people have to do my work, stuff that related to my personal business.

“I was extremely embarrassed. My co-workers can see this information.”

Truell said she used FMLA heavily last month because of what she described as a stress-related medical condition and because her son needed surgery. She added she usually takes two or three days off a month.

And here’s a key point from the article:

Describing the Facebook rant as bullying behavior, Truell has sought the help of her union representative to address the issue and is considering filing a grievance.

You may say that’s only a union or internal workplace issue, but you would be wrong. In Think Before You Click: Strategies for Managing Social Media in the Workplace, published by Thompson Publishing Group, we discuss how a supervisor’s inappropriate social networking comments can lead to lawsuits for unlawful retaliation, harassment and discrimination.

We don’t know what Zuelke’s actions will ultimately lead to. Hopefully for Nevada, it may at least result in a social media policy — the state doesn’t have a specific written policy on Facebook use, according to the article.