Facebook and other similar sites are growing exponentially in popularity. They are fantastic ways to stay connected to friends, family, and virtually the entire world. Where else can you express yourself so easily and freely and demonstrate through pictures and videos all of the fun events that take place in your life? After all, your friends really, really do want to know everything that is happening with you at every single moment, right?
Recent developments suggest that more than just your friends my want to know what you’re up to. In September, 2010, a New York woman plead guilty to accepting Workers’ Compensation benefits while working and was sentenced on felony charges of grand larceny and Workers’ Compensation fraud. Investigators had read a posting on her Facebook page where she reportedly was boasting about her job as an apartment complex manager, after having previously testifying that she had not been working while receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits. Not too smart.
More and more, employers and their attorneys, private investigators, and Workers’ Compensation employees and judges will be turning to resources like Facebook and other social media to find out what injured workers are up to. And it is all perfectly legal. And they are not only looking at what you say, but also what you represent yourself doing. Blatant incriminations like the New York woman bragging about her job while denying she been working are probably not that commonplace. But what about photos and videos? What about postings from friends representing activities that you’ve shared together? Anything that arguably demonstrates that you are working, capable of working, or engaging in conduct demonstrating that you are capable of doing more than what you are reporting to you doctors can and may be used against you. And if you have doubts, here’s the employer’s perspective.
John Gelman originally suggested restricting your privacy settings as a means to cloak your postings from the general public. However, as is demonstrated in the law review article Social Networking and Workers’ Compensation Law at the Crossroads by Professor Gregory Dull and attorney Jaclyn Millner, defense counsel are more and more aggressively pursuing legal means through subpoenas and other discovery measures to gain access to social media sites and to circumvent privacy barriers to see just what is being reported and displayed. Even the mere cumulative numbers of posts by an individual could be argued to be indicative of an ability to operate a computer and sit at a desk for hours on end and, thus, be employable.
While we are not suggesting that people need to become Facebook recluses simply because they are living with disabilities, we do suggest that everyone realize that not all who are looking at you are your friends.