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Employee’s Vacation Facebook Photos Help Defeat FMLA Interference and Retaliation Claim in E.D. Michigan

As the FMLA celebrates its 20th birthday this February, social media continues to be an increasingly important resource for employers in combating frivolous FMLA interference and retaliation charges by former employees. 

Just last week, in Lineberry v. Detroit Medical Center, et al., Case No. 2:11-cv-13752, the Defendant employer won summary judgment against a former employee’s lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, thanks to incriminating Facebook content posted while the employee was out on FMLA leave. 

Carole Lineberry, a former nurse, accused the Detroit Medical Center of interfering with her FMLA rights and retaliating against her for taking legally protected medical leave.  The Hospital approved FMLA leave and short-term disability benefits for Ms. Lineberry after she experienced excruciating pain in her lower back and leg area.  However, while on leave, Ms. Lineberry posted photos and content to her social media page that angered her co-workers and prompted them to report potential misuse of FMLA leave.  Ms. Lineberry’s Facebook photos depicted Ms. Lineberry riding a motorboat, lying on her side on a bed while holding up two bottles of beer in one hand, and holding her grandchildren while standing.  Other posts revealed Ms. Lineberry’s leave activities included trips to Home Depot, babysitting her grandkids, and taking online courses. 

Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff found the Hospital’s decision to fire Ms. Lineberry was justified after she admitted to lying about needing to use a wheelchair at the airport during her Mexican vacation she took while on leave.  Because the Hospital fired Ms. Lineberry for dishonesty and had an honest belief that Ms. Lineberry was abusing her leave, the Hospital was entitled to summary judgment in its favor and dismissal of the case with prejudice. 

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