my employee knowingly brought norovirus into the office and got a bunch of people sick by Alison Green on February 6, 2017 A reader writes: One of my direct reports knowingly brought norovirus into the office and didn’t tell anyone about, even after people began falling ill. Her child had norovirus and was banned from attending daycare until he was no longer contagious. She brought him to work with her and kept him in her office. She did not ask permission to bring him to work. He was still ill but was feeling better, and he came out of her office because there was a potluck and he saw the cake and the food on a table by the coffee maker. It was at this point that she was found out (for bringing him to work) and was asked to take him home. But he had already been in the office for several hours and had been in contact with food from the potluck. She also had him in the women’s washroom and one of the meeting rooms. No one knew he was sick at the time, but other people soon fell ill and also brought the virus home to their families. One of my direct reports has a child who is undergoing chemotherapy and who had to be hospitalized when she got sick. Another gave it to his grandmother, who resides in a retirement home. Pretty much everyone who works in my section was off sick from the norovirus at some point (diagnosis confirmed by public health). After public health spoke to the person who brought her sick child to work when they were investigating the outbreak in our office, she admitted to knowing his daycare had a norovirus outbreak and still bringing her sick child to the office. She did not speak up when others started getting sick, even though they had all the same symptoms as her son. Her assistant also confided to me that she (the assistant) had taken a message from the daycare about the child needing to be picked up due to the outbreak and that he was sick, but she did not know that her boss brought him back to the office. We have paid sick time and she would not have been penalized for using it. She told public health she didn’t think a few hours was a big deal. Now everyone is upset with her and no one will talk to her or go near unless it absolutely necessary for work. I am wondering what the best way to handle this is. I got sick and it was terrible, so I understand why people are upset. Ooooh. I am still nursing a grudge against whoever was the source of a terrible, long-lasting illness I got last fall (it was someone in Scotland, and that’s as far as I’ve been able to narrow it down … so far). I can understand people being really unhappy about this. Has your employee acknowledged anything about this since it all came out? Has she indicated that she realizes she made a mistake, that she feels badly, and that she won’t repeat the mistake in the future? If she hasn’t done all of that, I’d do three things: 1. Have a serious talk with her and ask what she was thinking. If she says she didn’t think it would be a big deal, ask if she’s changed that assessment since seeing what happened. Make sure she’s clear on what you need her to do differently going forward if her son is sick — or if she’s sick, for that matter. Also, suggest that it would help her relations with her colleagues to explain that she misjudged the situation and feels terrible about it, and that it won’t happen again. She doesn’t need to walk around in a hair shirt, but she does need people to know that she’s taking responsibility for the bad judgment that ended up impacting them. 2. I’m not a big fan of issuing policies or reminders to a whole group just because one person messed up, but this is a situation where your employees would probably appreciate an office-wide statement that sick kids can’t come to work with their parents, so that they have some assurance that you’re invested in preventing it from happening again. 3. As long as people are being civil to this employee when they do need to interact, and as long as they aren’t avoiding her when their work would benefit from talking to her, you can’t insist that they become chummy with her again. But if the avoidance is still continuing after a couple of weeks, at that point it’s probably worth pointing out to them that she genuinely didn’t realize the potential consequences of what she was doing and that she’s learned her lesson (assuming that’s true), and that while her bad judgment here had real consequences for people, it’s not great for any of us if we get permanently shunned after making a mistake. You may also like:can we ask a potentially contagious coworker to contain his germs?the intern who shares my office keeps coming in sickcan I ask my manager to tell sick people to stay at home?