Insurance Company Terminates Benefits After Seeing Facebook Posts

Nathalie Blanchard was diagnosed with depression about a year and a half ago.  Since then Ms. Blanchard, 29, has been on leave from her job at IBM.

During that time Manulife, her insurance company, paid her monthly short-term disability benefits.

According to Ms. Blanchard, her doctor advised her to socialize, take vacations and have fun as a way of improving her condition. She did – and posted photos of herself at a party, a Chippendales show, and on a sun holiday.  Ms. Blanchard also says that she told Manulife that she was going to be taking the trip.

In what has become a widely-discussed case, Manulife terminated Ms. Blanchard’s benefits this fall.  When Ms. Blanchard called Manulife to find out why, she says she was told “I’m available to work, because of Facebook.”

For its part, Manulife acknowledges that it investigates claims by searching Facebook accounts, but it says it would not terminate benefits based solely on information published on a website such as Facebook.

We certainly hope this is the case.  While Facebook posts can give some indication of a person’s activity level, it can also be dangerously misleading.  A photograph depicts only an instant in a person’s life and, as Ms. Blanchard notes, it does not tell the viewer whether the problems remain in the moments before or after the photo was taken.  This is especially true of conditions that are as complex as depression.

Regardless of the outcome of Ms. Blanchard’s dispute with Manulife, the case serves as a further reminder to people to be careful about posting personal information on the internet.

Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown

Principal Partner

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