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Court Sides with Mfg Worker Who Called in Sick via Facebook

He was terminated for "abandonment."

An auto worker has been embroiled in a court battle over an issue having to do with sick time and, in this case, whether his attempts to inform his supervisor of his absence were considered legitimate.

Kasey Roberts was terminated from his job at Gestamp West Virginia LLC – a metal stamping facility that supplies the auto industry – when he missed several weeks of work after an emergency appendectomy resulted in an infection.

According to Reuters, Roberts took six weeks of time under the Family Medical Leave Act for his surgery and recovery. Soon after his return to work, he developed an infection and was re-hospitalized, at which point he used the Facebook Messenger feature to reach his supervisor, rather than a call-in line the company requires workers use to report absences.

Roberts was terminated for “abandonment,” a move he and his attorneys allege was a violation of his rights as well as retaliation. A judge initially dismissed his claim before this most recent decision reversed it. 

The three judge panel who heard the appeal cited evidence that Roberts had communicated with his supervisor via Facebook previously, establishing an informal practice that was regularly accepted by the employer. 

The case was viewed by Roberts’ attorneys as being significant in determining whether informal communication methods are permissible in workers notifying their employers of their need for sick leave.

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