Brief Quiz here: What personal medical information you learn from a subordinate employee should you share with others on social media? If your answer is “none, under any circumstances,” congratulations – you need read no further. If your answer is “well, maybe it depends, because people might need to know…” then I have a story for you.
A recent lawsuit filed in New Jersey state court is a good reminder of why being an over-sharer on social media is risky. Now, the “facts” here are just those alleged in a complaint, so they may or may not be provable, but this is how the story is reported in Dubay v. Lamitech Inc., No. L-4017-18 (filed July 2, 2018, Middlesex County Superior Court).
Plant manager Todd Dubay had worked for Lamitech for about 17 years when he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in January 2017. He called his boss to tell him of this situation and of his need for an emergency medical leave of absence.
Two days later, and apparently without Dubay’s knowledge or desire, the boss went on Facebook and posted “very specific details about Plaintiff’s diagnosis, his prognosis, and his treatment plan.” It appears from the allegations in the complaint that the boss perhaps posted this information out of intended kindness, since the posting was to a high school classmate of Dubay’s, whose wife had worked for the company.
But, of course, there may also be more to the story. It seems that upon his return to work in March 2017, after Dubay and Reiser had “a heated exchange” about Dubay’s ability to perform his job duties, the two agreed to make Dubay a part of a temporary short-term layoff of employees. The complaint alleges that every one of those workers were called back to work except Dubay and “one other employee who also has a serious medical condition.”
The result: a six-count lawsuit against Lamitech and the boss. Not surprisingly, there are the disability discrimination claims under New Jersey law for alleged termination and creation of a hostile work environment, but the counts of “intentional and negligent invasion of privacy” and “NJLAD violation of confidentiality” could have been avoided if only there was no sharing of information on social media.
Oversharing on social media is a real concern. Some people claim that a reduced expectation of privacy is acceptable to them and that it’s no big deal. Well, it still is to some. And, when it comes to workplace information, sharing it outside of work remains a bad idea under any circumstance.