A racist message was posted on the Facebook page of an office manager for Norton Healthcare, presumably in response to the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and the update subsequently was shared hundreds of times via social media.

The highly inflammatory and racially charged post came from the account of a woman named Renea French Rainey. The message read:

Just an excuse to act more like the animals they are. How sad that their “demands” we’re [stet]  met for engagement. Real ammo not rubber!!!!! The authorities have betrayed their law abiding, peaceful citizens by allowing this to happen. If you shot a few of them the others would scatter like the cockroaches they are!!!!! Disgusting that people think this is a “normal” reaction to being upset. The officer did his job!!!!

A screenshot of that status update, along with an accompanying message, was posted on Nov. 26 by Louisville resident and activist Jaison Ashley Gardner, which is how IL learned of it.

On the Facebook post, Rainey is identified as having worked at Norton Immediate Care Center. IL learned Rainey was the office manager of the Norton Immediate Care Center in Fern Creek, in Louisville. (Update: IL has since learned Rainey was fired from Norton as of today because of the contents of her Facebook post. See below for more information.)

Here is the reposted update in its entirety:

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In response to an inquiry form IL, Norton released this statement:

“The posting that appeared online regarding the issues in Ferguson is not representative of Norton Healthcare and our more than 12,000 employees. The statement made by the individual does not reflect our values, standards or operating practices as indicated in our Patient Bill of Rights: Patients have the right to treatment regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, language, handicap, physical or mental disability, socioeconomic status or sources of payment … We have addressed the issue directly with those involved.”

Norton’s social media policy is fairly brief and does not address the issue of what an employee can or cannot write on their own free time. Here is an excerpt of that policy:

“Employees are prohibited from conducting personal blogging or social networking activities while working, as well as prohibited from using any employer or client-owned equipment, including computers, cell phones or other electronic equipment for such activities.”

Other social media guidelines for Norton employees include:

  • Be respectful and professional to coworkers, business partners, competitors, and patients
  • Follow all applicable Norton Healthcare policies in regard to patient information and employee confidentiality and proprietary information
  • Write in the first person. If you choose to identify yourself as a Norton Healthcare employee, or there is an apparent connection to Norton Healthcare you must state that your views expressed in your blog or social networking site are of your own and not those of the company.

Maggie Roetker, director of public relations for Norton Healthcare, would not answer whether Rainey is still employed by Norton, or whether she has suffered any sort of penalties for what has been posted. She referred such questions to Thomas Johnson, chief communications officer, who has not responded to messages.

In an earlier call, IL contacted public relations for Norton Healthcare and was told by Sandra Willis, an office assistant in marketing and communications, that Norton knows about the issue and is addressing it. No further information was provided.

On Nov. 29, a Twitter user with the handle @NeeceyG contacted Norton about the post:

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And received this response back:

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In response to another complaint about the Facebook post, Norton tweeted:

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As of Dec. 1, Rainey’s Facebook page had been taken down.

IL called the Norton Immediate Care facility at Fern Creek and was told Rainey would not be in the office on Dec. 1 or Dec. 2. A message was left with the receptionist, requesting Rainey call back as soon as possible regarding the Facebook comment in question. So far, we’ve received no return call.

Update: 2:35 p.m. on Dec. 2

Thomas Johnson, chief communications officer for Norton Healthcare, has confirmed that Rainey has been terminated from her position at Norton due to the contents of her post, as of today.

In an emailed response he said Rainey violated Norton’s social media policy:

“Our policy states the following: ‘Write in the first person. If you choose to identify yourself as a Norton Healthcare employee, or there is an apparent connection to Norton Healthcare you must state that your views expressed in your blog or social networking site are of your own and not those of the company. Use a personal email address  … Any employee who engages in such conduct or otherwise violates this policy may be subject to personal liability, as well as corrective action up to and including discharge of employment.’”

He added the connection between Rainey’s Facebook post and Norton Healthcare may have been inadvertent, but the connection (and association) was made just the same. “We want to be clear and direct in our response,” he wrote. “The sentiments expressed in that posting are in no way reflective of Norton Healthcare values or practices. We have been providing medical care for those in need in the Louisville community for 128 years. When a patient comes through our doors, all we see is someone in need of our help.”

In a separate phone conversation, Johnson added the decision to let Rainey go was made by leadership at Norton.

IL asked if Rainey was using her own computer equipment on her own time, or whether she was using work equipment. Johnson said this was unknown, but Norton’s response was made on the content of the post and the association with Norton Healthcare.

Johnson said the social media policy at Norton will not be rewritten based on this situation. “It’s pretty clear,” he said. “The policy speaks for itself.”

David Serchuk
David Serchuk is a staff writer at Insider Louisville. He is a former editor at Forbes.com, and an ex-reporter at Forbes magazine. He's written for NPR, CNBC.com, New York, Pittsburgh, Louisville and other publications named for places. He enjoys writing about business, music and other things as well.