A federal court upheld a decision made by Accentia Health to discharge an employee for posts made to his Facebook account while on leave. The man had been granted 12 weeks of FMLA leave plus 30 days of non-FMLA leave after undergoing shoulder surgery. While on leave, the man had posted pictures of himself swimming in the ocean despite his apparent injury. Fellow employees reported the postings to management.
When the man returned from work, he was asked about the pictures and allowed to provide context. The man refused to do so, and he was fired for what the company deemed to be poor decision-making on his part as a supervisor. The company also deemed that he violated the company's social media policy. In his lawsuit, the man argued that the company interfered with his FMLA rights by requiring him to present a fitness for duty certificate.
The court found that Accentia was not in violation of his rights because everyone was required to present such a certificate upon returning from leave. It also found that employers may terminate employees for both good or bad reasons without violating the law. Going a step further, the ruling said that courts do not decide whether an employment decision is fair or not.
Individuals who may have been terminated after returning from medical leave or because they took leave may wish to talk to an attorney. The law provides specific rights to employees when they want or need to take temporary leave. An attorney may be able to establish that those rights were violated, which could result in an employee receiving compensation for back pay and lost benefits.