Nursing assistant fired for requesting post-hurricane help on Facebook

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Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional comments from Signature HealthCARE. 

A Florida nursing home fired one of its nursing assistants earlier this month after she used social media to call for help for the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, according to local reports.

Kathyleen Sherrod told the Palm Beach Post she went into work at Signature HealthCARE of Palm Beach on Sept. 11 after Hurricane Irma hit the area to find the facility without power to its air conditioning system. When conditions in the facility hadn't changed one day later, Sherrod took to Facebook to request help from friends, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and power company Florida Power & Light.

“Its patients, the staff are suffering… They've been without power for three days… PLEASE,” Sherrod's posts read. “These poor patients are having to deal with pure misery on top of their physical condition. HURRY. I thought nursing homes were priorities?''

Residents' family members brought in industrial misters and portable fans the next day, and power came back on on Sept. 14, two days after Sherrod made her Facebook requests.

On Sept. 15 Sherrod was fired from the facility, reportedly told by her supervisor that her posts had violated a company policy that aims to prevent employees from making comments online that paint the provider “in an unfavorable light.” When she tried to defend her post, Sherrod was told she “did nothing to help the building,” the Post reported.

Sherrod said she wasn't aware that the social media policy was included in her employee handbook, but would have posted her requests even if she did. She also said she has no interest in getting her job at Signature back.

“I would do it again,” Sherrod told the Post. “That's why I went on Facebook because, really and truly anymore, you have to go to social media where somebody may do something and be able to help.''

Peggy King, vice president of marketing and brand development for Signature, said in a statement to McKnight's Long-Term Care News that she couldn't comment on specifics of the incident due to confidentiality concerns, but that the provider is "proud and thankful" for its employees who "spent tireless energy, effort, care, and compassion" during Hurricane Irma.

"With a solid hurricane plan in place, our staff executed tirelessly around the clock to keep everyone safe and as comfortable as possible – and we succeeded!  Naturally, some of us were without power because of the hurricane, as were many others throughout the State of Florida, and we appreciate that the public utility employees worked quickly to restore it," King said. "Our facility has a long history of providing exceptional care to our residents and their families, especially during times of great need like Hurricane Irma, and we are committed to ensuring their physical and emotional wellbeing, at all times.  Accordingly, we will (and do) take measures to try and correct actions that could negatively impact them."