Pa. health employee fired over racist Facebook post

By Sam Wood
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — A Jefferson Health employee who posted an invective-filled, racist rant on social media was fired Wednesday after her screed went viral.

Diane Amoratis, 53, of Bridesburg, apparently wrote the inflammatory Facebook post after Saturday night's Black Lives Matter protest in North Philadelphia.

"They should have bulldozed the BLM protest at the 24/25 district last night. Disgraceful!!!" said the post. "I am sick and tired of all this b- with the black people!!"

The diatribe, which also praised police restraint at the protest, smoldered unnoticed for a day before it was shared tens of thousands of times by outraged Facebook users across the nation.

Once word got out that she worked at Jefferson, many who saw the post demanded Amoratis be fired.

On Wednesday afternoon the hospital posted, "the individual is no longer at Jefferson."

A spokeswoman for the health system said Amoratis was not a nurse but declined to provide further information.

Amoratis did not return several phone calls requesting comment. Her Facebook account has been deleted, but the screed lives on since it has been copied by other users.

She is one of several people across the country, some in law enforcement, who have been reprimanded or dismissed by embarrassed employers for messages about recent police shootings on Facebook.

A corrections officer in Louisville, Ky., was suspended after re-posting a picture of a police officer captioned, "If we really wanted you dead all we'd have to do is stop patrolling your neighborhoods ... and wait."

A cop in Omaha, Neb., was placed on paid administrative leave, and a Detroit police officer was demoted, after posting notes accusing Black Lives Matter protesters of racism.

A sheriff's officer in Anderson Co., Ky., was fired for an expletive-laden post that called for shooting African-Americans in the face; a police officer in suburban Kansas City was dismissed after threatening a 5-year-old black girl; and three Columbia, S.C., firefighters lost their jobs for critical comments about Black Lives protestors.

Because it is not a government entity, Jefferson can fire people at will, said a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

"There may be some union agreement that protects the worker but it wouldn't be a First Amendment protection," said the ACLU attorney Sara Rose.

If public employees make racist comments, the employer may be able to dismiss them over statements that could erode public trust and damage community relations, Rose said.

In Jefferson's case, public trust was an issue many Facebook commenters raised. Numerous people flooded Jefferson's Facebook page to say Amoratis' words were especially incendiary from an employee of a healing institution that serves a racially diverse city.

A social media consultant said employees are often surprised at the consequences when their words go viral. But it's the employee's responsibility to know their company's social media policy and be cautious about making public statements, said Evan Urbania, CEO of ChatterBlast, a consulting firm in Philadelphia.

"Employers are not looking to squash First Amendment rights," Urbania said. "But if you're posting hate language, that falls into a different category. You have to be aware of that."

In a statement posted on Facebook, Jefferson CEO and president Steven Klasko and chief human resources officer Jeffrey Stevens, wrote that what employees say on social media can influence how people perceive the entire Jefferson Health system.

"Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable at Jefferson and is not consistent with our values, policies and the culture of inclusiveness, dignity and respect we continue to build here," they wrote.

Copyright 2016 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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