Depressed Woman Loses Disability Benefits After Posting Facebook Pics Of Her Having Fun at Chippendales

November 23rd, 2009

From AP (see also ABC and CBC):

A Canadian woman on long-term sick leave for depression says she lost her benefits because her insurance agent found photos of her on Facebook in which she appeared to be having fun.  Nathalie Blanchard has been on leave from her job at IBM in Bromont, Quebec, for the last year.

She said her insurance agent described several pictures Blanchard posted on Facebook, including ones showing her having a good time at a Chippendales bar show, at her birthday party and on a sun holiday.

Blanchard said Manulife told her it’s evidence she is no longer depressed. She’s fighting to get her benefits reinstated and says her lawyer is exploring what the next step should be. Blanchard told the CBC that on her doctor’s advice, she tried to have fun, including nights out at her local bar with friends and short getaways to sun destinations, as a way to forget her problems.

According to her attorney:

Blanchard and her lawyer Thomas Lavin are taking legal action against Manulife and IBM, arguing that it was Blanchard’s doctor who recommended that she socialize with family and friends.
“What they have done amounts to constructive dismissal because they’ve said to her if you don’t come back by the 30th of October you’ve got nothing,” he said.

Lavin said he’s observed similar cases in which information on social networks raised red flags for insurance companies. But, he added that in those cases the information didn’t lead to the payments being immediately terminated. Instead it served as a trigger and prompted further medical reviews or examinations, he said.

“They never even notified her,” he said. “They just stopped paying.”

I know nothing about Canadian Employment law, but I could definitely see a similar claim popping up in an American employment environment.

Check out this video from ABC for more details.