Nursing home worker fired for Facebook post loses Idaho Supreme Court case

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A former nursing home worker fired for a Facebook status update has not succeeded in an appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court. The language of the skilled nursing facility's social media policy was an important factor in the ruling handed down Friday, according to local reports.

Joseph Talbot wrote on Facebook that he would like to “slap the ever loving bat snot out of a patient” at the 60-bed Desert View Care Center in Buhl, the Twin Falls Times-News reported. The January 2013 status update also insinuated that Talbot would not answer residents' call lights “every time” if they insulted him.

A nursing professor saw the post and reported it to Desert View, leading to Talbot's dismissal, the Times-News reported.

The Idaho Department of Labor later determined that Talbot was “venting” and would not actually harm a resident, and that the facility's social media policy was vague about Facebook posts, according to reports. The agency granted Talbot unemployment benefits.

The state's Industrial Commission came to a different conclusion, finding that Desert View had proper policies in place and had communicated them to Talbot, who agreed to abide by them as a condition of employment.

Three of the Supreme Court justices agreed with the Industrial Commission and concluded that Talbot's intentions of following through on his threats was not relevant, according to news reports. The two dissenting justices said that Desert View's social media policy was unclear.

Even if “patient safety and the reputation of the facility” were at play, the ultimate decision rested on “noncompliance with policies,” Nonprofit Quarterly Editor-in-Chief and President Ruth McCambridge noted on the publication's website Tuesday.

“Apparently, a social media policy does make sense for some organizations,” she wrote.

Desert View Care Center is a for-profit facility under operational/managerial control of BRP Health Management Systems.