All the Reasons You Shouldn’t Prevent Employees From Discussing Who Has the Coronavirus

by Evil HR Lady on September 8, 2020

Rumors can send people into a panic. Additionally, some people are super nervous about exposure to Covid-19 that even if they don’t meet the Centers for Disease Control’s definition of exposed, they are concerned if they’ve had any peripheral contact with someone who tested positive. So, naturally, businesses want to keep things under control.

This backfires, and it may be illegal (depending on how you do it). Big-named companies, such as Amazon.com, Cargill, McDonald’s, and Target, have told employees to keep Covid cases hush-hush, according to Bloomberg. Companies don’t want employees to panic and they don’t want customers to stay away. But, here’s where you get in trouble: The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) grants employees the right to discuss working conditions–which includes safety-related discussions.

This means you can’t stop your employees from discussing their concerns surrounding Covid. Employment Attorney Jon Hyman of Meyers, Roman, Friedberg, & Lewis explains

To keep reading, click here: All the Reasons You Shouldn’t Prevent Employees From Discussing Who Has the Coronavirus

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

grannybunny September 8, 2020 at 3:15 pm

Why you shouldn’t prevent employees from discussing who has COVID-19? Because you simply cannot successfully do so. Any attempts by management to stifle such discussions will merely drive them underground — making them less overt — but by no means eliminating them.

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Elizabeth West September 8, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Employees should not have to risk their lives engaging with antimaskers, who can be absolutely vicious and have even attacked people over their anti-science delusions. If your company is requiring customers and clients to wear masks, then as a manager you need to be prepared to step in and be the bad guy. If you’re asking employees to enforce it you need to have their backs.

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goes both wys September 10, 2020 at 3:11 am

That goes both ways – maskers can also be vicious (a couple of them were arrested for assault in our area for hitting a teenager in a local store here). Our company is not requiring masks because we are not open to the public and those that can work from home are supposed to be doing so leaving the very few who must be in the office – and those can socially distance. We have people who are tired of working from home coming in and being jerks wanting everyone else to wear masks. Luckily managers are sending them home.

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GreenDoor September 8, 2020 at 6:14 pm

I get the point of the article. But what if the talk is pure speculation. We had someone in our org who passed away days after we first shut down and people were talking among themselves saying the person died of COVID – but the employees family never confirmed that. I think it’s OK for managers to step in and shut down COVID talk if it’s turning to gossip/speculation about specific people.

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MariaRose September 8, 2020 at 7:26 pm

I understand taking a delicate approach to this but COVID-19 infectious rate makes it in the same classification as Tuberculosis. All known close Co-workers should be told immediately, there should be no hesitation by the company to ensure the safety of the employees and to contain possible spread by both notifications and covering the testing and if needed time off required in some kind of form so the employees will not feel that they are being laid off or be without resources. A lot of people avoid taking off work when sick because they aren’t going to be paid ( a pleasure of right to work laws). But with this Contagious disease, there’s options for getting paid some income. Also as this is a public health classified disease, all employees should be told upfront that there have been diagnosed cases in the premises and be given guidelines to follow and how to get further information for their specific questions. For this specific disease, the more awareness of the needs for safety precautions, the less chance of a large amount of infection. Secrecy caused the large amount of outbreaks in New York, because a sick individual overlooked their symptoms and continued social interactions.

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Kathy September 8, 2020 at 8:40 pm

Workers find out what they need to know. Layoff coming, reorg planned, someone fired, covid in the office: if management isn’t forthcoming about it, the rumor mill will be. When management has to do rumor control, they’ve lost employee trust and the rumor mill has gained it. Even though the rumor mill embellishes the truth with alarming falsehoods, people will listen if they know that any bad news that they need to know will reach them by rumor first.

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Marla September 10, 2020 at 4:06 pm

You should definitely tell any employees or customers who have been exposed to an employee with Covid about that exposure, per CDC guidelines. However, management should never disclose WHO the sick person is without that person’s permission — to do could be a violation of the medical privacy provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course, employees will probably find out on their own, and that’s fine, but the identity of the individual should not come from management.

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