Ehling v. Monmouth-Ocean Hosp. Srv. Corp.

961 F. Supp. 2d 659 (2013)

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Ehling v. Monmouth-Ocean Hosp. Srv. Corp.

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
961 F. Supp. 2d 659 (2013)

Facts

Deborah Ehling (plaintiff) was employed as a registered nurse in New Jersey. Ehling filed suit against her employer, Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corporation (the hospital), the hospital’s president, and its executive director of administration (defendants) over a disciplinary action in response to a Facebook post. One day Ehling made a post on Facebook that came to the attention of her employer. There had been a shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., in which a guard was killed. The 88-year-old shooter was shot and wounded by other guards and tended to by paramedics. After the shooting, Ehling posted a comment on her wall on Facebook in which she referred to the shooter as a white supremacist, questioned why the paramedics had treated the shooter instead of really making an impact, using an acronym that represented a profane expression, and advised the guards who had wounded the shooter to pursue target practice. Ehling had around 300 friends on Facebook, but none of them were managers at the hospital. Ehling had befriended various coworkers on Facebook, giving them access to her posts, including Tim Ronco, a paramedic. Ronco was friends with a hospital manager. For some reason, Ronco began taking screenshots of Ehling’s posts and providing them to the manager, who provided them to the hospital’s executive director of administration. As a result, Ehling received a temporary suspension with compensation and a letter from the hospital explaining its concern that Ehling’s post exhibited an intentional lack of concern for the safety of patients. Ehling filed an unsuccessful complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which determined that the hospital had not transgressed the National Labor Relations Act or violated Ehling’s privacy, because her Facebook post had been provided to hospital management unsolicited. Later, Ehling filed a suit related to various grievances with the hospital, including a claim for invasion of her privacy. Ehling argued that the hospital gained unauthorized access to her posts on Facebook by summoning an employee to report to management and coercing the employee into accessing his own Facebook account via threats. Ehling produced no evidence to support these claims. The hospital sought summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Martini, J.)

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