My coworker is making me sick

by Evil HR Lady on September 4, 2012

Dear Evil HR Lady,

One of the coworkers in my call center (team of 30 people, cubicles, the typical set up) has only been on the team for about 3 months. She was referred by her boyfriend. They have both been sick for over a month. Neither one of them has called in, fevers, hacking cough, joking about how many antibiotics haven’t worked for it etc. Stating they can’t afford to call in, our office doesn’t offer sick pay. Attendance has been an issue with the team for a long time. I personally have had perfect attendance since I started in February… aside from when she got me sick. I incurred over 950 dollars in medical bills and absence from work due to the crud she passed around. Turned into bronchitis and required super antibiotics. Here is the problem, Management doesn’t seem to think she is doing anything wrong as she is coming to work. She is still contagious, still coughing and doesn’t cover her mouth, and doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem. 1/2 of the team has had to go to the doctor or ER. One of my coworkers just checked in her daughter at the ER as her lung collapsed. Should I contact HR? Is there something in particular I should say to get this resolved? I feel like management doesn’t care as they are “unable to determine if she has gotten anyone sick” I personally have a compromised immune system, and could get this crap again at any time. I realize it’s flu season, but everyone has been given the same type of antibiotics… HELP! I can’t afford to get this thing again!

I suspect this isn’t about illness at all, but rather that you don’t like your new coworker. What makes me say this? First, you stated clearly that both this woman and her boyfriend are sick,  yet the whole rest of the email is about her and her alone. Why not lover boy? Are his germs sterile? You also mentioned that she was referred by her boyfriend. Is the implication that she doesn’t deserve the job? Because that’s kind of the feeling I’m getting from your email.

So, take a step back and evaluate how much of this is just personal annoyance at her existence.

I’m now going to pretend I’m a doctor (which I’m not) and say that it’s highly doubtful that a disease that was so mild that your coworker and her infected boyfriend haven’t missed so much as a minute of work is sending half your team to the doctor or the ER. Unless you all live in a bubble when you’re not in the office, you have no way of knowing where you got infected. I mean, have you paid attention to what lurks on the grocery store carts lately?

Now, could the company force her to go home when she’s sick? Yes. But are they? No. What can you do about it? Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer.

I think companies should offer sick time so this doesn’t happen, but the reality you’re in is that sick time isn’t available. Can you really blame someone for wanting to work if at all possible? I’m sure she cannot afford to take time off more than you can.

Should you say something? Sure. You can even ask that you be moved away from her because of your compromised immune system. (Although if you do, don’t be surprised if they ask you for documentation on that.) And, I have no idea if compromised immune system fall under ADA (and further more I’m feeling too lazy to actually look it up).*

But, I suspect this is more about a personality conflict than anything else. Maybe asking to be moved is a good solution.

*I will deny this sentence in future job interviews. Someone must have hacked me. I am never lazy when it comes to ADA. Confused and bewildered, yes, but not lazy.


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