Sen. Grassley demands details of community's HR, social media policies after worker arrest

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Sen. Charles Grassley
Sen. Charles Grassley

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is seeking details of a Florida memory care community's human resources and social media policies after a worker there allegedly secretly recorded two residents having consensual sexual relations in a private room and then posted the video to Snapchat.

As McKnight's Senior Living previously reported, medical assistant Alexis Williams was arrested March 22 for an incident that allegedly occurred in August at Bristol Court Assisted Living Facility in St. Petersburg, FL. She faces one count of video voyeurism and one count of video voyeurism dissemination.

“This reported behavior, perpetrated against one of the most vulnerable populations in our country, is absolutely abhorrent,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote Tuesday in a letter to the community's administrator.

He gave the administrator until April 11 to submit information about the community's social media policies, the enforcement of those policies, employee screening before hiring, a description of all supervisory guidelines that govern employee conduct, and information on how current policies address previous violations over other matters.

Bristol Court told McKnight's Senior Living that it was “troubled” by the alleged actions and was cooperating with authorities. The facility has a zero tolerance policy for such actions, according to a statement from the community, and immediately terminated Williams' employment upon learning of the alleged incident.

“At all times, we strive to have the best staff caring for residents through strong hiring and training procedures, reference checks and background verification,” Bristol Court said. “Policies which prohibit the use of cellphone cameras and media devices are a must in this age of rampant misuse of social media. Unfortunately, even with all policies in place, when someone wants to commit an egregious act, they will.”

Grassley's letter is not the first time he has weighed in on the topic of elder abuse via social media in assisted living communities and nursing homes.

In March 2016, he asked the Department of Justice for details on its work to protect senior living residents from being exploited via social media, citing an incident that had occurred earlier in the year in an Illinois assisted living and memory care community, in which a former certified nursing assisted allegedly hired three men to have sex with female residents with dementia while he recorded them. (That worker later was sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of solicitation to commit aggravated criminal sexual assault.) Grassley said that his efforts have led to several improvements, including a memo from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to nursing home safety inspectors explaining that social media exploitation is a prohibited form of abuse.

“Punishment is critical. Prevention is critical,” Grassley said in a statement on March 29. “That means the nursing home or assisted living facility has to enforce measures that prevent inappropriate social media use. It means the social media companies should prevent their platforms from being used in the commission of crimes and abuse, especially against vulnerable populations. And it means the state and federal agencies that govern nursing home quality have to prevent and punish social media exploitation to the fullest extent under the law.”

Even senior living operators beyond the purview of CMS would do well to heed the federal agency's guidance on employee use of social media in the workplace, LeadingAge told its members last year.

The National Center for Assisted Living released social media-related recommendations to its members in 2016.

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