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Home > Topics > Social Media for EMS

Medic 'justly fired' for Facebook rant on slapping patient

The former helicopter paramedic posted on Facebook that she wanted to slap an uncooperative patient

By David Lee
Courthouse News Service

FORT WORTH, Texas — A former helicopter paramedic who posted on Facebook that she wanted to slap an uncooperative patient was properly fired, a Texas appeals court ruled.

In the initial post that drew concern, CareFlight paramedic Janis Roberts had complaint to a fellow CareFlight paramedic about an apparently unruly patient who needed restrains. Roberts had said that she wanted to slap the patient.

Sheila Calvert, who worked as a compliance officer for CareFlight, said that her sister had seen the post on Facebook and reported it to her.

When Calvert warned Roberts, via Facebook message, that similarly situated employees had lost their jobs or licenses over such posts, Roberts was indignant.

"Yeah, whatever," she had replied. "YOU weren't there. Whenever I have to have a firefighter ride in with me because of a patient's attitude, and I fear for MY safety, I truly believe a patient needs an attitude adjustment. Think about that the next time YOU correct someone!!"

The two exchanged some more messages, and Roberts then posted again on her own Facebook profile about needing restraints for the patient.

The paramedic co-worker had commented on this post: "Yeah, like a boot to the head."

After Calvert's sister notified CareFlight's CEO about the "slap" post, and the "boot to the head" comment, CareFlight fired Roberts. In addition to referencing the "slap" post, CareFlight said that hat Roberts had been "unprofessional and insubordinate" to Calvert.

Roberts then sued CareFlite for invasion of privacy and for unlawful termination. She claimed that the company actually fired her for reporting a co-worker who had started an IV on a patient without the proper certification for performing such a procedure. Claiming that this behavior was criminal, Roberts said she refused to participate in a cover-up.

A Tarrant County judge later granted CareFlite's motion for summary judgment, agreeing with CareFlite that "the subject of Roberts's Facebook posting was not within the zone of her seclusion, solitude, and private affairs; and that as a matter of law, CareFlite's acts were not highly offensive to a reasonable person."

A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeals affirmed Friday, noting that Roberts did not produce evidence supporting her privacy claims in the 350-plus pages she had submitted.

"In our review of Roberts's brief, we did not find where Roberts directs this court to what summary judgment evidence she produced to raise a fact issue on these elements," Justice Lee Ann Dauphinot wrote for the court. "Instead, Roberts raises arguments that do not relate to the elements of her claim or the evidence to support those elements."

CareFlite is also off the hook because there is no allegation that it disclosed Roberts' personal information under a request for information by a member of the public.

Roberts had tried to seek relief under a case that considered whether the Texas Public Information Act required disclosure of the birth dates of state employees or whether the information was exempted from disclosure under a provision exempting information from an employee's personnel file, 'the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,'" Dauphinot wrote.

Since Roberts had appealed from the summary judgment as to her intrusion upon seclusion claim, but not her wrongful termination claim, the court refused to consider a purported National Labor Relations Board determination that protects employees from firing over "concerted workplace related discussions on Facebook."

The court also deemed it irrelevant that Roberts said CareFlite was "out to get" her and that "[t]he claim that the public saw [Roberts's] email post is strictly an 'in-house, put-up' affair by CareFlite management."

"The questions of whether CareFlite management was indeed 'out to get' Roberts and of whether the public saw the email exchange between Calvert and Roberts, [or] Roberts's wall posting ... are irrelevant to the question of whether Roberts produced sufficient summary judgment evidence on her claim," Dauphinot wrote. "The relevant inquiry is not whether Roberts produced evidence relating to the ability of the public to see Roberts's writings or whether CareFlite was 'out to get' Roberts. Rather, the inquiry is whether CareFlite intentionally intruded upon Robert's solitude, seclusion, or private affairs or concerns and, if it did so, whether such intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person."

Founded in 1979, CareFlite is a nonprofit air medical transport service that operates helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and ambulances in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Its board of directors includes representatives from five of the largest medical service providers in the region: Texas Health Resources, Methodist Health System, Baylor Health Care System, Parkland Health and Hospital System and the JPS Health Network.

Republished with permission from Courthouse News Service

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Scott Brown Scott Brown Tuesday, October 09, 2012 1:25:38 PM "CareFlight said that hat Roberts had been "unprofessional and insubordinate" to Calvert..." Whaaaaat? Over a social media channel? Really? Not sure it was in ANY way "professional" to "counsel" an employee over Facebook IM...but hey, lets not let improper actions by "supervisors" get in the way of a good firing huh?
Elizabeth Miller Elizabeth Miller Wednesday, October 10, 2012 9:00:43 AM You're invading my privacy when you read my Facebook posts! Good one, thanks.
Michael Carter Michael Carter Wednesday, October 10, 2012 9:58:16 AM Mark my words, Facebook will actually be the downfall of free speech on the internet.
Rich Fuller Rich Fuller Wednesday, October 10, 2012 10:03:47 AM Sounds like a good reason NOT to mix Facebook [or any social media] comments with anything remotely WORK based.
Robert O'Connor Robert O'Connor Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:18:09 AM Online pissing contest, sounds like this conversation could of occurred in the apparatus bay and result would've been the same... the bigger dick always wins in a pissing contest....
Michael Sean Michael Sean Wednesday, October 10, 2012 12:18:00 PM Another example on how facebook and work do not mix!
Lynn M. Bourchier Lynn M. Bourchier Wednesday, October 10, 2012 12:44:07 PM You are invading my privacy when you read something I posted on the Internet for all the world to see? Yeah, okay.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Wednesday, October 10, 2012 3:27:33 PM Any time you make a threat of violence toward a patient or even a co-worker in public and with it being in writing on something like Facebook for others to see, expect consequences. If someone tried to warn you to chill your comments and you respond with more written garbage, expect consequences.
Bruce A Mills Bruce A Mills Wednesday, October 10, 2012 5:41:15 PM One more reason to deactivate your account
Dan Gregg Dan Gregg Thursday, October 11, 2012 9:09:24 AM I think that Roberts needs to be more catious on what she puts out in the public domain. There will always be busy bodies like Calvert and her sister in law out there trying to kiss ass and stab somebody in the back so they can feel important. Any paramedic that has never felt frustration towards a patient has never really worked out in the field. I have no doubt that the comment about wanting to "Slap" the patient was not intended to betaken literally. I have had so many things happen to me thru the years and the conversations that normally took place back at the Station after dealing with a difficult patient would often involve someone wanting to "slap, punch, kick" or any number of other things. These were all tongue and cheek comments and just a way to vent off frustration and would never have taken place. It is vital for people in these stressful situations to be able to vent and move on. My suggestion, If you are going to vent on Facebook make sure you know who all your real friends are and don't let in busy body back stabbers like the one that caused all the problems for Robert's. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:28:55 PM How do you know they were just tongue and cheek comments? Do you look the other way also when your partner is abusing a patient? Those who display anger verbally in a confrontational manner or who are stupid enough to make the threats in writing on a public forum need at the very minimum professional help. If this has been a pattern, then the dismissal is justified just as the courts have determined. Not even a doctor could get away with saying he is going to slap his patients in public. Why should EMS standards be so freakin' low?
Dan Gregg Dan Gregg Thursday, October 11, 2012 1:45:41 PM Jake, Let me guess, You have never worked in the field or in a health care facility and if you have it was only for a very short time and then you went into an administrative position. That is the typical path for people that couldn't cut it in the field. I think the issue is that frequently people don't view FB as being a public forum. It is viewed by these people as just chatting among friends. If you have ever been to a party or get together with Health care workers you will hear things much worse than wanting to slap a patient. I once had a patient intentionally vomit on the side of my head. I think my words later were something like, "oh that makes me so happy I want to go and bake him a cake."NOT. It just to bad they can't teach common sense in college because the world would be a much happier place.
Schuyler Gazzo Schuyler Gazzo Thursday, October 11, 2012 2:47:52 PM Never would've been an issue if the compliance officers sister minded her own damn business.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Thursday, October 11, 2012 5:03:16 PM Dan Gregg Don't have any thing intelligent to say so you start trying to make insults? Adminstration is also not a bad thing since we can initiate change and get rid those who openly disrespect their patients. The health care PROFESSIONALS know better than to put their crap into writing for those to view who may not share their same opinion. Saying something at a party with only a couple of buddies around is something totally different and then it is a matter of proving someone was sober enough to know what what said. Even if you believe you are posting for "friends" on the internet, you never know how many other "friends" they will share your posts with. But then posting insulting stuff here with your name is not always the wisest either. Small world my "friend" and now your FB page has given an international community more info about you and your family.
Joseph Hebert Joseph Hebert Friday, October 12, 2012 7:23:17 AM We all like to vent when we have tough days or crappy calls. Is it just me or isn't it common sense that we should all be careful with posting our personal thoughts on Facebook. Use your family, friends etc. for venting.
Dave Aber Dave Aber Sunday, October 14, 2012 4:36:03 PM Talking about this topic on EMS OFFICE HOURS...Join in...

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