Suspended after writing negative comments on Facebook and supposed HIPPA violations

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I am in RN in the state of Michigan and was called into HR yesterday regarding HIPPA and Standard of Conduct. My employer had printed "Walls" from various co-workers of mine showing comments we made about a fellow RN. They obviously wouldn't say how they got this information, however, I have my facebook settings set so only "friends" can see my profile and most of my "friends" can't even see my wall posts or status updates or much of anything for that matter, as I have the highest security settings for most of my "friends". The profile they had printed from me had no wall post on it but the profiles from the others involved in this had wall posts. This means to me that HR or my manager got someone who was our "friend" to give them their ID and password to logg in or this "friend" printed out all the stacks of walls and profiles HR had. Is it legal for an employer to do this? We all had our settings at "friends only" so it was not for "everyone". I find it hard to believe they can do this. Also, would it really be lateral violence if we are making these comments about the coworker at home and not at work? They also tried to say it I violated HIPPA by saying "Thanks for your help with 55" REALLY? Thanks for any advice you can give, I really feel that I am going to be fired over this and have been told I should get a lawyer.
No employment laws have been violated. You are free to take the issue up with the administrators of Facebook.

Whether HIPAA (and it's not HIPPA - as an RN you should know that) was violated or not, if your employers feel that your comment was inappropriate it is legal for them to fire you for it.
Well said.
Its always best not to post things that are job related no matter how secure it may seem to be.
cbg and T tops are right in what they have previously posted. Unfortunately, it IS legal for them to suspend or fire you for these actions. This is a clear example of the employer stating that you have violated the reasonable conduct an employer can expect from its employees, even if it occurred at your home and not the office. As an employer in a medical profession, their standards of conduct are generally higher than that of, say, a seasonal retail envionment. Therefore, by posting these "opinions" of a fellow worker on a site with world-wide access that relate to your job, they can suspend or fire you since they can also state that you are creating a hostile work environment.
Well, I don't know all of the particulars of the case and what was written, but it COULD be possible for the employer to say that what was posted is making the office a hostile work environment for the person the posts were written about. However, I could be completely wrong about what the laws say in Michigan about this.
Well To meet that definition, the employee must be able to show that s/he is being subjected to either sexual harassment or illegal discrimination under Title VII (race, religion, national origin, age etc.). It has nothing to do with the atmosphere of your workplace, no matter how unpleasant it may be and the poster hasn't stated anything remotely close.
Mlane is correct. The term, hostile work environment, has a very specific meaning under employment law, and nothing in the OP's description suggests that an HWE exists or is being created.

There does not have to be an HWE before the OP can be terminated for inappropriate comments.
yeah, that's true and I hadn't thought about it before putting the phrase in the context of my post(s). Thanks for catching me on it!
I was looking at it at the standpoint that since specifics aren't known about what was said and whether or not that type of languange and/or behavior spilled over into the office setting, the employer has the right to at LEAST document the incident in order to avoid a hostile work environment lawsuit, if not suspend and/or (and this is a drastic step in my opinion) sever the employee-employer relationship.
I didn't say the employer wasn't justified - only that nothing in the initial post suggests that a hostile work environment is a factor.

You are right that we don't know what was said but we can only respond based on what we know, not on what we guess might be the case.

Whether there was or was not an HWE being created by the poster, it was still the employer's right to take the action they did.

Again, if the OP feels that Facebook's rules were violated, they will have to take that up with Facebook. The law was not violated by the employer's actions.
Practical advice. The internet is in no way, shape, or form a secure means of communication. If you post something on a web site or send it in an email, it is out there where anyone with the time, inclination and expertise can access it. This should now be evident to you because your employer has copies of the posts.

Rule of thumb: Don't say or do anything on the internet that you wouldn't say or do in a crowded public place. That is where you are on the internet despite anyone's "security settings."
Was the posting during working hours? Employers definitely frown on unauthorized Internet posting during working hours.

More and more company's are setting it up so the only site you can access on the Internet, is the companies own website. Anything other than the companies website a pop-up appears that reads "unauthorized website".

Chris Warren 57 is absolutely right there can be work place consequences for pissing off the wrong people on the Internet particularly during business hours.
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the comments made on FB were related to things this employee did at work, like many pt falls not properly documented and occurance reports not being filled out, this RN being rude to pts. One comment was about a nurse who wears extremey tight pants, refering to her as "tight pants". The hospital also said i irreprably damaged there image by saying that "would be nice if so-and-so could get the f'in schedule right", and also complaining about how my paycheck wasn't right. Also, the nurses that were talked about on Facebook didn't even KNOW about it unitl HR called them in and showed them the posts. During the investigations NO ONE said anything bad about me, however, some nurses on day shifts names came up as the ones causeing the hostile work environment, but since they are friends with our manager, nothing ever happened to them.

I am now fired and this is under greivace by our union.
Are you and suspendedRN the same poster MichiganRN? Your other post you were in a union that is different handling.
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I am the same person as suspenedrn - sorry about the change

ALL the posts were at my home on my home internet connection - not the hospitals. I was never rude to the people involved at work. I just didn't talk to them as when you would try to give them advice on pt situations - they would blow up.

I turned over a whole stack of emails to the union from my former manager where SHE says innapropriate things to me about other co-workers, possible Hipaa, and saying she wishes she could go back to bedside nursing so someone else could deal with this crap. She is now being investigated- also for protecting the employees that really DO cause the lateral violence. She has even told a co-worker of mine she would pay for me to be gone.

And yes, I am in a union - and this is being grieved
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Well at this stage that is all that can be done your union should move this up to arbitration. Courts generally decline to hear cases that have gone through the grievance procedure up to arbitration. So the best bet is the union get your job back prior to arbitration, or at arbitration.
I don't see anything wrong with the investigation into the posts nor the suspension pending its outcome. One would assume, given your description of your "security settings", that someone approached management about your FB postings, and they probably expressed concern about your conduct. Your employer did the right thing by conducting an investigation.

Are represented by a union? If so, it is likely your contract has provisions for suspensions and disciplinary action, including termination. Whether these provisions were followed could be at issue. Is there a rule or policy where you work regarding employee's outside conduct?

As others have said in this thread, it is never safe to post anything negative about co-workers or your employer on the internet. You must have a certain loyalty to your employer, and you oftentimes have an obligation to refrain from making injurious remarks against it -- "Can you bite the hand that feeds you and insist on staying for future banquets?". It is generally unacceptable to declare war on your employer by making false, malicious, or disparaging remarks about it or its product or services.

I didn't catch all the details about your situation, so these comments are not necessarily specific to your issue -- what I'm saying is, I don't know whether your FB posts were false, malicious, or disparaging.
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