A registered nurse terminated from employment for posting on Facebook while dispensing medication to a patient could not collect unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania. Chapman v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review. This case is another example why it is critical to have clear, written electronic communication and social media policies in place that are reasonable and enforced consistently. Without the policy in place, this employer surely would have had a more difficult time defending the unemployment claim.
In this case:
- the employer’s policies provided that (i) it may immediately discharge an employee who engages in conduct that could cause a life threatening situation and (ii) cell phone usage is prohibited while on duty;
- the employee was aware of these policies and had previoulsy been warned about them;
- while on duty and dispensing medicine to patients, the employee used her personal cell phone to post comments on her Facebook page about an unpleasant and embarrasing incident experienced by a coworker;
- the nursing director heard other nurses speaking about the Facebook posts in the hall and asked one of the nurses to show them to her; and
- the employer terminated the nurse who made the posts on grounds that her conduct could cause a life threatening situation to patients.
Reversing an earlier decision that would have allowed the employee to receive unemployment because her actions did not constitute "willful misconduct," Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Board of Review noted that the nurse "was aware of the employer’s policy prohibiting the use of cell phones while on duty, yet she violated that policy despite having been previously warned for doing so.” The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court agreed.