Migraines, Facebook, and an Unfair Firing

Teri Robert @trobert Health Guide
  • I came across a couple of Migraine related news articles today that I have somewhat mixed reactions to.

    They're about a woman in Switzerland who was allegedly fired for being well enough to post to Facebook even though she wasn't well enough to work.

    My first reaction was that the employer was seriously ignorant, and that we needed to educate that employer, Nationale Suisse. However, reading the articles showed the issue not to be quite so black-and-white.

    The unnamed employee had a Migraine at work and told her employer that she needed to lie down in a darkened room due to the Migraine. That wasn't the issue. The issue was that as she lay in that darkened room, she was using her iPhone to go online and post to Facebook.

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    It seems that someone in the company created a fake Facebook profile and "friended" the employee. That allowed others working for Nationale Suisse to monitor her online Facebook activity. This lead to her firing from her job.

    A spokesperson for Nationale Suise said that the company followed simple logic -- that if she had been well enough to be online posting to Facebook, she had been well enough to work.

    Thus, I suggest that there is ignorance at work here from two angles, that of the employer and the employee...

    The employer

    During a Migraine, some of us need absolute quiet and darkness. We can't even move. However, we don't all have the same needs. Some need to lie down in a darkened, quiet room, but we also need to do something to distract us from the pain and other symptoms while we wait for our medications to work and for the Migraine to end. It's not unusual to find some Migraineurs sitting or lying down with the computer screen dimmed and reading or posting online as a distraction.

    The employee

    Had she been at home on sick leave, I'd be supporting her 100%. However, she asked to lie down at work. Considering that, her time belonged to her employer. If she felt like being online, was there work she could have been doing lying in that darkened room? If so, it doesn't seem unreasonable to have done so. If not, I'm not sure I can blame the employer for being unhappy with her engaging in personal activities while still on the clock. One question I would as is this -- "Had she been sitting at her desk posting to Facebook, would she have been fired for that?" If the answer is, "Yes," then it seems there was no discrimination toward her based on her health. Fair is fair.

    What do YOU think?

    Is this a situation where the employer, ignorant of the needs of Migraineurs, wrongly terminated the woman's employment?

    Is this a situation where the employee wasn't showing the best judgment in her use of "company time?" I've read quite a few blogs where people wrote about "faking" a Migraine or claiming one was worse than it actually was in order to skip class or get a day off work. In my book, that's a form of ignorance -- ignorance of the damage people do to all Migraineurs when they use the disease that way.

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    Did both sides show "ignorance" in how the situation was handled?

    Please click the "Add Comment" link below and tell me what YOU think!



    Staff Reporter. "'Ill' worker fired over Facebook." BBC News. April 25, 2009.

    Lytle, Mark J. "Facebook surfing gets 'sick" staff the sack." techradar.com. April 25, 2009.

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    © Teri Robert, 2009
    Last updated April 26, 2009


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Published On: April 26, 2009