back to article Swiss woman rolled over Facebook

A Swiss woman caught red-handed on Facebook while off work with a migraine has been given her marching orders, the BBC reports. The unnamed social networker told employer Nationale Suisse she was incapacitated and in serious need of a lie-down in a darkened room. However, a colleague "inadvertently noticed her using Facebook …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Why would she add a shadowy stranger (the employer's monitoring service) as a "friend"? Goes to show how false and ridiculous the Web 2.0 concept of having 1000 unknown buddies is.

  2. Mark Menzies
    Thumb Up


    The perils of Facespace and Mybook. :P

    This is really funny, thumbs up to the Reg for this.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wot a w*nker

    Another social masturbator caught stroking their lubricated online-ego on company time...

  4. Anonymous Coward

    She has a point

    Working in a noisy office with phones going off al day while having a migrane is painfull.

    But lying in a quiet bed with a blackberry isnt going to cause her pain.

    I feel that this dismissil is out of order.

  5. Craig

    "the perils of exposing yourself to online scrutiny"

    Surely it's fairly easy just not being a liar?

  6. Simon Neill

    More going on...

    I can't imagine this woman was fired for this alone. Probably what we aren't being told is that she turns up late 2 or 3 days a week and already had a written warning on file. Everyone pulls a sickie at some point, its part of life and employers know this.

  7. Hans Mustermann


    No kidding.

    Well, I wouldn't even mind it if they were called just "buddies". Or acquaintances. But what kinda rubs me the wrong way is the devaluing of the word "friend".

    It used to mean, as the wisecrack went, "friends help you move, good friends help you move bodies." It used to mean people you could depend on, and at the very least with whom you spent a significant amount of your time. It also did mean you need to spend some significant amount of your time just maintaining a relationship at the level of "friend".

    Now apparently it means a complete stranger. It's just another row on another "mine is bigger than yours" list. Someone who, 99% of the time, you don't remember that he even exists, and he doesn't even remember that you exist, and neither would even dream of helping the other in any more significant way than a meaningless thumbs-up on a blog.

    Ditto for the whole social networking idea, which takes the madness one level higher. When "friend" still meant something being a friend with a friend of X, still meant _something_. Maybe in some situation your friend would ask his friend for something on your behalf. I was reading some time ago that "friend of a friend" in mafia lingo was someone who, for example, operated a shot "family" member without asking any questions or calling the cops. But again, because the meaning of "friend" was so much more as to actually make a "friend of a friend" mean anything too.

    Nowadays you have all these sites peddling the idea that you too can be only 6 degrees of separation from anyone... but it goes through 5-6 hops of complete strangers who are no more to each other than meaningless names on a "mine is bigger than yours" list. When even the first hop probably wouldn't want to have anything more to do with you than have you on a meaningless list, what is the probability that someone 6 hops away will want to have _anything_ at all to do with you by virtue of that connection? Nil. Zero. Nada.

    And just to be clear, I'm not against online or virtual friends. But even then I'd expect to be someone you spend _some_ virtual time together, or hang around the same server, IRC channel, WoW guild channel, writing emails to each other every couple of days, or anything else even remotely comparable to what "friend" used to mean. Meaningless names on a list just aren't it. When both have to wonder "who the heck was JohnDoe1234 again?" that just isn't a "friend".

  8. Robin
    Thumb Down


    "those who are well enough to use Facebook with a migraine are well enough to work with a migraine".

    Where do I get one of these jobs, where my day's work is no more difficult that typing "OMFG I have a migraine :-("

  9. The Dorset Rambler
    Black Helicopters

    The name's James....

    "undercover Facebook operative"

    Damn, I missed the advertisement for this job...

  10. Sam C

    Re: Wot a w*nker

    Well done, anonycow, you've bought capitalist doctrine hook, line and sinker.... our lives are meaningless without work! All praise the Company!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Just an excuse

    Nowadays most companies are looking for a way to chop heads without having to pay redundancy.

    Lets be careful out there people!

  12. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @Eq

    Oh it's just default colloquial usage. Think of it in inverted commas. 'Acquaintance' is too long and formal and cold, 'chum' or 'mate' or would sound ghastly and wouldn't travel (and it was a US site to begin with of course, so yeah, 'buddy' or 'pal' - ugh on those). 'Contacts' is too business-like... etc. Don't read too much into it, I'd say. I mean, why upset yourself, y'know?

    But then, I live in London where we greet almost everyone with a smacker on the cheek, so maybe my social stuff is all askew. Shrug. I don't care. I know who my real friends are without having to save the word 'friend' exclusively for them.

  13. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    What is the union hyena on about?!?

    "....Despite her employer's claim it had done everything "by the book", TUC general secretary Brendan Barber noted: "Most employers wouldn't dream of following their staff down the pub to see if they were sounding off about work to their friends."...." How stupid is that? Of course you are responsible for the image you project of your company! If I go down the pub and tell my mates exactly what I think of the new CIO then I'm smart enough to make sure (a) there's not someone around that might report me back to the CIO, and (b) they are my mates and not some unknown I have never met. Of course, not that I would ever complain about our wonderful and respected CIO, a true genius and inspiration to us all.....

    And it also conveniently ignores the main point - if these people are off sick then they are claiming pay for not working because they supposedly cannot work. If they are shown to actually be capable of work then they are just thieving.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Clearly the TUC are out of touch

    There's a slight difference between the highly finite audience in a pub and the hordes of denizen using Facebook.

    Unions - PAH! They'll be the death of GB PLC.

    If this undercover croney was added prior to the sickday in question, this looks a tad constructive.

  15. Paul

    Matt Bryant

    Please refer to earlyer posts. Posting on face book is not exactly taxing, and saying you sould be working if you can post on facebook is stupid. I hope the company gets all thats coming to them.

  16. John Bayly

    @Matt Bryant

    There is a difference between saying your job is boring and calling the CIO a cnut. Whilst I can't feel sorry for the woman in this story (who adds a "shadowy figure" as a "friend" in the first place), the previous case is taking the piss.

    Calling your job boring isn't besmirching the company. If you spend all day opening the post for a company the sells sharks with freakin laser beams, you'd have a boring job in a pretty damn cool company. It's quite possible your putting up with opening the post until there's a position open for Dr Evil's account manager's PA.

  17. Luis Ogando

    A Little Harsh

    OK, despite the fact that she could have had numerous warnings and disciplinaries up to that point, getting the sack is a bit extreme. If she was caught chucking a sickie because she didn't want to work then the company has at least some responsibility to find out why. Perhaps a final written warning would be in order, but not marching orders.

    I reckon she was on the way out anyway for being a cr4p employee!

  18. Tim Greenwood

    @ Simon Neill

    "Everyone pulls a sickie at some point, its part of life and employers know this."

    In your world this may be true, but don't drag us all down to your level.

    In my world I am entitled to paid days off which I book as part of my annual leave entitlement, including ringing in on the day and asking them to book me on holiday. I do not decide to "pull a sickie" by calling in when this is not the case.

    When I am too ill to work then I am entitled to sick leave and would have no qualms about calling in sick if this was the case.

    Perhaps it's my age as I am now mid forties and don't understand the lack of pride and lack of self esteem that the "yoof" of today seem to exhibit.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who has the fun job of surfing facebook all day?

    I had a boss once who got me out my sickbed to send an email, being too ill to constructivly complain, I did it. But looking at the bright screen was painfull.

    Can the screen on her hand-held be turned down so it doesn't hurt while surfing in a "darkened room"?

    I'm going to do a rather boring bit of my job later. Doesn't mean I don't like my job, just means bits of it are a pain in the arse.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Depends what your job is?

    I write software for fun and also for my employer.

    Sometimes I'm pretty sick and I snooze on the couch and write software for fun between snoozes, and when thats too hard for me I read or post to forums.

    Maybe a TV editor watches TV in bed when sick.

    So where is the line drawn over whats acceptable to do when sick off work?

    It's not like her job was pushing buttons - "any button will do" and her boss got narked cos she was pushing buttons at home.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "Most employers wouldn't dream of following their staff..."

    That's not true at all.

    Most employers have wet dreams about doing exactly that. It's just too much like work, so they don't bother.

    Computers make stuff like this easy. This story is not even slightly unique.

    Basic human nature: So many people fail to take it into account.

  22. Neil


    So changing my status to "Neil has a migrane" is a sackable offense? It's easier to do that with a migrane than it is to phone the bloody doctor to make an appointment!

  23. Anonymous Coward

    @Tim Greenwood

    It's not only the 'yoof' who do this, but also people of YOUR age class Tim.. You'll be surprised how many people, regardless of age or 'yoof'ness, pull sickies because they believe they are entitled to.

    That said, I wouldn't ever dream of it either. Not only do I find pulling a sicky reprehensible, but my boss is too smart to buy the bad curry, migraine or dog ate my access card stories. I do call in sick when I realise that I am ill, and would be better off coughing around at home instead of infecting my colleagues, or am running a fever and should rather sleep it off.

  24. Chris Silver badge

    Written during my lunch break, in case my boss is reading...

    @Tim Greenwood

    Mid-30's here, and I feel the same regarding pride, self esteem, integrity... The closest I've come to pulling a sickie was when I used up the full two weeks I'd been signed off for following a retinal reattachment op. Having never been under the knife before, and with it being a fairly invasive op on an important bit of my body, I was following the recovery procedure to the letter, so when the consultant decided I should take two weeks off work, two weeks is what I took.

    @ AC 11:57

    Mmm, that's my thought as well regarding this story - assuming she was sacked based *solely* on her sickbed Facebookery. Even in the first day or two following the op mentioned above, I wasn't so completely incapacitated that I could only lie quietly in bed doing SFA. Yes, I needed to rest every hour or so, but I was still capable of spending a bit of time online or watching TV inbetween. And since I wasn't able to sleep for more than an hour or so at a time (having several rows of stitches in your eyeball is no fun...), I probably spent as much time online throughout each 24 hour period as I'd have spent in front of the PC at work in a normal 8 hour working day. But somehow I didn't think my employers would want me coming in, working for 20-30 minutes, sleeping, doing another bit of work, sleeping...

    So whilst I find it rather annoying that some people seem to think it's OK to lie about illness in order to get a few extra days holiday (not to mention damn unfair on anyone who's genuinely unable to work and is then worried about having to call in sick for fear of being labelled a skiver), employers do need to realise that just because someone who's ill might be able to perform the same tasks as they're required to do at work, it doesn't necessarily mean they're able to perform those tasks over an extended period of time.

    But as others have suggested, there's probably more to this story than has been reported so far - even in a tough economy, I can't believe any employer would pull the trigger on an employee for a single incident like this.

  25. Inachu
    Dead Vulture

    This is weird!

    I have my computer monitor on my night stand which is next to my bed.

    I do this so I can laydown and do whatever online and even telecommute and read my work email.

    To think I would be fired for using facebook when calling in sick is stupid!

  26. gollux

    Smell of a rat...

    Larcenous friend trying to justify internet surfing Facebook while at work turns in person out sick?

    <blockquote>The unnamed social networker told employer Nationale Suisse she was incapacitated and in serious need of a lie-down in a darkened room. However, a colleague "inadvertently noticed her using Facebook", and the company bid her an unceremonious adios. </blockquote>

  27. Rob


    The migraines I've suffered from tend to stop me from looking at anything (generally the pain won't subside until I have the eye concerned closed).

    I agree with other posters, I think she was being watched by her employer for the straw that incapacitated the camel. I can't imagine for one second any employer is going to go to the expense/effort to watch all of their employees on Facebook. A pain in the arse employee is a different story though, anything short of framing them to get them out the door.

  28. Pirate Dave Silver badge


    maybe it's because I'm 'merican, but what's the big deal with sickies? Some of you guys sound like your employer owns your soul. I'd think that if you're an important and functional part of the company that your boss would value your worth and have no problem with you taking an occassional day off to goof-around. I mean, hell, we have Jobs to further our Life, right? We don't have Lives to further our Jobs, do we?

    Or maybe I've just been working at a college for too long and have become too lax. I don't miss corporate life in the slightest.

  29. Peter Gant


    As a migraine sufferer I think this woman was trying to pull a fast one. In the middle of an attack there's no way I could read the screen on an iPhone (or any other screen for that matter) as I'm almost totally blind. The thermonuclear class headache and the sensitivity to light and sound only add to the discomfort.


  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's bad form...

    Firing someone for calling in sick is bad. Of course if the person a persistant offender than by all means.

    But forcing people to work if they are not well should be classed as a form of torture. We have all had bad headaches, not nesessarly migraines but are bad enough to stop you from working. And sometimes these symtoms can subside a bit if you sleep or are not dong stuff that uses a lot of concentration. I doubt looking at a website uses a lot of concertration ^^.

    The migraines I get usually hurt like a ... wether you are doing something or not. Although doing stuff tends to make it worse.

  31. DR


    As most people have said here, Migraine sufferers generally feel intense pain upon even opening an eye. -so if she had a migraine then she couldn't possibly be posting on facebook cause it's physically hurt.

    It sounds like what she really had was a bit of a headache and didn't feel like working. to many people now are quick to say that they have a migraine, when what they really have is a headache.

    With regards pulling a sickie, if you're ill, you're ill, there is not a lot that you can do about it.

    if you;re faking then you deserve the sack.

  32. Scott Swarthout
    Dead Vulture

    Pulling a "sickie" in the US

    One thing that most companies on this side of the pond are doing, is getting rid of sick time. It's rolled into vacation time, as "Paid Time Off". There is no shame in a "mental health day" as it's all vacation.

  33. Mithvetr

    @ Peter Gant and DR and Other Listers-of-Symptoms

    Peter Gant basically says the woman was pulling a fast one because she didn't have the same symptoms he has. Further down, DR says, for much the same reason, that she had only a 'bit of a headache'.

    If these commenters are migraine sufferers (as Peter Gant indicates he is), it's surprising that they seem to take so little interest in their condition. If they did a little research, or talked to other sufferers, they'd find that the symptoms of migraine can be hugely variable. For most, without doubt, an attack takes the form of a headache. But there are many other effects of migraine. Even the 'straightforward' headache attacks can vary, from mild-but-annoying to vicious agony; from disablingly frequent to once-in-a-lifetime.

    There again, there are numerous other symptoms associated with migraine. There are the 'aura' symptoms: flashing lights, fog, spinning 'wheels' in the vision, visual impairment or disorientation... There are the physical symptoms: numbness or pain in the extremities; temporary paralysis; extreme fatigue; nausea and vomiting... The list goes on. Migraine is an unpredictable thing, difficult to diagnose precisely because of the sheer number and variability of symptoms that could be caused by it.

    My own migraines tend to consist primarily of aura/visual effects and disorientation - and frankly, even knowing what they are they can be very frightening indeed. But for me there tends to be surprisingly little pain - perhaps a few minutes' mild pain immediately the aura subsides. The headache phase doesn't comprise the main part of my attacks. Even so, I honestly doubt if I could work whilst it was going on. I couldn't concentrate; sometimes I couldn't read a screen; sometimes I couldn't stand up and walk across the room. Which leaves me knowing enough to know that I'm not in a position to dictate what someone else's experience of a migraine 'should' be like, or what they should or shouldn't be able to do during an attack.

    If the woman was my employee, and I found out she'd faked an illness and taken a day off, then the first thing I'd want to be asking her is why. Is she unhappy? Is there anything that can be done to make her more motivated and thus improve her performance? If she's just being idle then fine, then we can talk about disciplinary action. The trouble is always going to be *proving* that she was just being idle. And frankly, I don't see any way I could obtain that proof solely based on the fact that she's been on Facebook while she's at home. It's certainly going to take more than a company spy added to her 'friends' list.

    For the record, I've no time for Facebook or its kin and I see no appeal in such sites whatsoever. On the other hand, if staff are using it at home - even when off sick - then it's really none of my business. I'll treat their sick days as sick days and judge their performance accordingly - which still leaves me with options if they're underperforming.

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