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Social Media and Workers Comp

  • National
By Julie Ferguson
Lynch Ryan and Associates

Are Facebook, Twitter and other social media postings fair game when conducting a workers comp fraud investigation?

We've posted on this topic previously, including a reference to a successful Facebook-related investigation conducted by New York State Insurance Department's Fraud Bureau: social networking, workers comp & the law. Now, two of the experts that we cited in that post Professor Gregory Duhl of the William Mitchell College of Law and attorney Jaclyn Millner have a new article new article that is worth your attention: Social media and insurance fraud.

In the article, they answer our opening question with a strong affirmative, making a comparison between internet searches of public social networking profiles to the more common fraud investigation tool of video surveillance of property-casualty claimants. In fact, they make the case for why insurance investigators should be spending even more company time on Facebook, suggesting that postings or photos can substantiate some other evidence found in an investigation. While privacy issues are of concern, they state:

A privacy argument is unlikely to prevail in court because a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in whether he or she has a social networking account or in what is posted in his or her profile. Even if a claimant protects his or her social networking profile information with privacy settings, the information is available to at least some third parties, to whom the claimant gives access (the claimant's "friends").

Some courts have gone so far as to say that there is no privacy interest in information stored on the internet because even if information, such as social networking information, is protected with privacy settings, it could be accessed by certain members of the public.

The recent case of Romano v. Steelcase Inc. shows that anything posted on Facebook or any other social networking site, whether the user has privacy settings or not, is likely discoverable.

Social Media & Employment Law

The social media landscape is dynamic and the courts are grappling with many thorny issues. If it isn't one of the top issues you are tracking in employment law, it needs to be. While fraud investigation is one area of interest, there are many other significant issues: how social media is used in hiring and pre-employment screening; social media policies in and out of the workplace; monitoring employees in the workplace, and more. Here are some good resources to help you keep current with the dynamic intersection of social media and employment law:

Think Before You Click: Strategies for Managing Social Media in the Workplace is a newly released book that we can't wait to read. The book's authors and editors are among some of the legal authorities we most frequently turn to on the topic of social media several are practicing bloggers. We would particularly cite the following two authors, who frequently blog on social media:

Employment Law Attorney Jon Hyman: Ohio Employer's Law Blog

Employment Law Attorney Daniel Schwartz: Connecticut Employment Law Blog

And from the plaintiff perspective, we would recognize attorneys Jon Gelman and Alan S. Pierce who paired up for a podcast on Privacy, Clients and Social Media. Gelman frequently posts about social media on his blog, Workers' Compensation (which is well worth reading on other topics, too). He also has authored articles on social media, such as Facebook Becomes a Questionable Friend of Workers' Compensation.

Julie Ferguson is a marketing consultant for Lynch Ryan and Associates, a Massachusetts-based employer consulting firm. This column was reprinted with the firm's permission from its blog, http://www.workerscompinsider.com

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