« Misconceptions over family-work conflict hurting women | Main | Supermarkets battle to attract customers »

November 20, 2021

Facebook photos get depressed woman's benefits cut

When it comes to employee benefits, people generally splinter into two radical groupings.

The first thinks the big, bad corporations should pay us minions whatever we want; the idea here being, whatever help we need is just a fraction of your overall, lucrative profits.

The second rationalizes we’re all a bunch of cry-babies and should have to earn what we keep; too long have the weak been protected by bull-headed unions and payouts unfair to their employers.

So with that in mind, when a story like this comes out, you can see how each side is likely to come out swinging.

The CBC has reported a Quebec woman had her sick-leave benefits cut by her insurer because of photos she posted on Facebook.

Nathalie Blanchard, 29, had been receiving a monthly paycheque from provider Manulife while on a one-and-a-half year depression leave from her job at IBM.

When suddenly her payouts stopped coming, she called Manulife.

The insurer told Blanchard that – based on posted photos showing her partying at a Chippendales bar and relaxing on a sunny beach – she was fit to work and no longer eligible for benefits.

“In the moment, I’m happy,” Blanchard admitted of the photos to CBC. “But before and after I have the same problems.”

Now, this is the point where people in group no. 2 are screaming at their computers, calling Blanchard every kind of lazy-expletive name they can think of.

But are things that black and white?

For starters, Blanchard said she informed Manulife of her trip, and said she’s “shocked” they would interpret her photos as a sign she is no longer depressed.

Next, who is Manulife to be the final ruler on this one?

“It’s not as if somebody had a broken back and there was a picture of them carrying with a load of bricks,” Blanchard’s lawyer said. “My client was diagnosed with a major depression. And there were pictures of her on Facebook, in a party or having a good time. It could be that she was just trying to escape.

“I don’t think for judging a mental state that Facebook is a very good tool,” he added.

Indeed, the isolated pictures on Facebook don’t quite give Blanchard an indisputable clean bill of health, but in Manulife’s defence, they claim their investigation was thorough.

“We would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook,” the company said in a statement.

So, whose side do you take here?

It’s apparent both Blanchard and Manulife have a case, but was the insurer right to play the role of God and jump to cut the woman’s benefits? As a larger issue, is it proper for companies to consider their employees’ online profiles for such a decision?

Or, to keep asking long-winded rhetorical questions, is what is put on Facebook simply a public matter, once and for all?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...