Facebook Rant Cost Nurse His Job & Benefits

     (CN) – An Idaho nurse who ranted on Facebook that he wanted to slap a patient is not entitled to unemployment benefits, the state’s highest court ruled.
     Joseph Talbot had been working as a nurse at Desert View Care Center for about five months when he made a January 2013 post on Facebook that got him in hot water.
     “Ever have one of those days when you’d like to slap the ever loving bat snot out a patient who is just being a jerk because they can?” he asked. “Nurses shouldn’t have to take abuse from you just because you are sick. In fact, it makes me less motivated to make sure your call light gets answered every time when I know that the minute I step into the room I’ll be greeted by a deluge of insults.”
     One of Talbot’s Facebook friends, a nursing professor, alerted Desert View and expressed her concerns about the patient safety.
     Talbot said he was merely venting his frustrations, but Desert View officials decided that Talbot had violated its social media policy, which requires employees to treat several groups of people “with respect electronically, as well as in person.” The policy also prohibits “slanderous, vulgar, obscene, intimidating, threatening or other ‘bullying’ behavior.”
     Talbot said he never read the policy but agreed to its requirements when he signed for one of his paychecks.
     After Desert View fired Talbot, he filed a claim for unemployment benefits. The Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL) denied his request, but an appeals examiner reversed the decision, ruling that the policy was vague regarding Facebook.
     The Industrial Commission ruled on appeal that Talbot was not entitled to benefits because Desert View had communicated its social media policy and fired him for violating it.
     Talbot took the case to the Idaho Supreme Court, which affirmed the commission’s ruling in a decision 3-2 last week.
     “Talbot additionally argues that his conduct was not willful, he had no bad intent, and he did not mean to harm anyone,” Chief Justice Roger Burdick wrote for the majority. “He cites to the IDOL decision to support this argument. However, under the standards of behavior test, ‘there is no requirement that the claimant’s conduct be willful, intentional or deliberate. The claimant subject’s state of mind is irrelevant.'”
     Justice Jim Jones wrote the dissent, which says patients are not among the long list of groups that the social media policy asks employees to treat respectfully.
     “The laundry list does not include patients,” Jones wrote. “The only mention of patients is ‘the family members of our patients.'”
     Indeed the next sentence refers to “the groups identified above” or “other facility stakeholders,” according to the dissent.
     Jones added that “the record contains no documentary evidence of a social media policy applying specifically to patients.”

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