bedbugs in the office

A reader writes:

I am up late because I can’t stop scratching. It might be a psychological itch, but it might not be!

So today I went to work at my dreadful job at a call center where about 200 people work. Now, I had heard other people speculate that they had throw out our breakroom sofas (very suddenly) last month because they had found bedbugs in them, but I had just put that down to idle gossip. Then, one girl mentioned that she had actually seen a bedbug at her work station, but I just assumed she was a drama queen.

However, when I sat down at my desk this morning, I noticed this tiny, teensy, little bug walking over my workstation. I think it was just the contrast between the color of the bug and the color of my desk that made me notice it. Agog, I managed to catch the little bugger in a kleenex, and to my absolute HORROR, confirmed it was in fact, a bedbug.

I sort of shrieked and yelled in an alarmed voice that I had found a bedbug. This is when my supervisor came over and examined it, still alive in its kleenex prison, and whisked it off to management.

The guy who sits beside me then told me he had seen two of the little darlings crawling across his desk yesterday!

So my supervisor came back from her meeting with management and said it had been confirmed, I had indeed entrapped a bedbug. She then advised me to not tell anyone because they did not want a mass panic. Later I found out that at least three other employees had found these bugs walking around on their workstations.

Later, I went to the manager and asked what they planned to do about our apparent bed bug problem. I was advised that they were looking into it, and would possibly spray on the weekend.

ON THE WEEKEND!!!!! It is only WEDNESDAY!!!

Am I unreasonable to be horrified to be expected to sit and work in a bedbug infested environment for several more days, possibly dragging the little critters home with me and infesting my entire apartment building, not to mention the 200 other apartment buildings our employees live in?

This has grossed me out so badly that I feel like getting a doctors note or some damn thing to keep me out of that place until it is uninfested. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

Agggghhhhh!

I’m posting this within minutes of receiving it, because agggghhhhh!

Bedbugs are Not To Be Messed With.  I know someone who had to move out of her apartment for weeks when she got an infestation. And then they still weren’t gone and she had to move out again. Bedbugs will take over your life.

Your manager sucks for telling you not to tell anyone. Because they don’t want a mass panic? There’s a reason it would cause a mass panic, lady. You might show her this article and this report, which talk about the increase in lawsuits from workers whose offices were infested with bedbugs, but their employers deliberately sat on the information.

And they will possibly spray on the weekend? Possibly?

Honestly, I’d refuse to come back in until the problem is dealt with. I realize you may not have that option, but I’m really, really hoping you do. And this would be a really good time for you and your coworkers to band together as a group and speak in one voice on this.

What do other people think?

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. erin

    Ew ew ew! I would definitely refuse to come in, even if I had to take vacation days or something. Like you said, bed bugs are not to be messed with. I can’t believe management wants to wait until the weekend to deal with this problem.

  2. Confused (and grossed out)

    I remember a while back there were a bunch of random hotels all around the US with this issue so there was a lot of info on the news. They can easily get on your clothes and you may take theme home with you. This falls under ‘health and safety’ in my opinion. Can you go to your boss’ boss? I have a fear of all bugs and would probably have anxiety attack. Groooossss!

  3. Rebecca

    I live in fear of bedbugs and this would be such a nightmare! Hopefully the OP educates herself on how to prevent infestation in her home, as there are some steps you can take. Also, use the bedbug registry to warn others.

  4. Kat

    I agree DO NOT GO BACK IN. It’s possible that you and other co-workers have already brought one of those suckers home on your clothing, in your belongings, etc. I’ve read horror stories about this and the first thing you need to do is put all your clothes from when you first heard about the bedbugs into trash bags. Wash them and then trash bags. Check your beds, check your car, check everything. Even though it’s a big concern with them at work, the bigger concern is bringing them home because it takes a LOT to get rid of them.

  5. Original Poster

    Do you think they could fire me for simply stating that I cannot work until the place is fumigated? On orders of my landlord?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Good question. Unless there’s a specific law in your state that addresses this kind of thing, they probably could. Whether they would is a different issue. What state are you in?

  6. What the?

    Can the OP not call the local health and safety board to file a report? It can be done anonymously. Even if the area is sprayed, my understanding that most stuff has to be stripped and disposed of( ie carpets, office chairs.) If it means a temp shut down in the operations of the business, workers most likely would qualify for unemployment benefits. It’s disgusting, unsafe and unsanitary work conditions – bed bugs should not be messed with as they can easily port themselves on someone’s clothes or personal belongings and then bang, you have yourself a bed bug problem in your house.

  7. Original Poster

    I am actually in Canada. I am going to call my provincial labour board in the morning and ask their advice. I might have to get a doctors note, but I’m sure any doctor would happily write one for this issue (stress and trauma and also, I think I have had bed bug bites in the past month, but I just thought I was imagining things!)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I know nothing about workplace law in Canada, only the U.S., although my general sense is that you have more protections. Let us know what you find out!

      1. Samantha

        I was going to say I think you have more rights in Canada. Also try your provincial Human Rights board. I’m fairly certain that all provinces would consider this unsanitary working conditions. And maybe your Health Board? I’m also certain they would REQUIRE the employer to fumigate and not possibly fumigate!

    2. KDD

      Or Calgary! But if you are I work for a staffing company and would gladly get you registered to find something else!

  8. M.I

    Actually all protection laws can be found online. If your company is so cheap that they can’t manage proper workers’ protection, it’s better to find another job.

  9. Original Poster

    Well, I know exactly what they’re thinking. To properly fumigate, they would have to shut down the call center, which is open seven days a week, thus losing several days worth of money, so they would rather just pretend there are no bedbugs, even when one is trapped in a kleenex and waved in front of their faces.

  10. Ellen M.

    FEAR TEH BEDBUGS. They will not go away of you ignore them , in fact they will breed and the situation will get worse. I wouldn’t go back until they are GONE.

  11. Sarah G

    OP, I work with the homeless and have been to bedbug trainings, so here are a few tips:
    1. Wash any clothes that you’ve worn to the office recently in HOT water and dry them on the highest setting. This will kill any bedbugs if they’re there. Do the same with all your bedding, and pillows too.
    2. Inspect your home carefully — lift up couch cushions, look in the crevices and seams of couch cushions, and do the same for your bed. Look for bugs or — sorry this is gross — but their excrement, which is black spots/stains. Also any blood spots on sheets or blankets is a sign of infestation. It’s important to check the seams where bedbugs can hide. Look in your car seats too!
    If you have carried any bugs home with you, you want to figure it out now and nip it in the bud! Also, if you find them in your home and live in an apartment, alert your landlord.
    3. Go buy an airtight mattress cover to protect your bed (I would get one for the box spring too). They make fancy “bedbug protection” mattress covers, but a cheap vinyl one will work if you’re on a budget, the kind that covers the whole mattress and zips up. Cover the zipper with duct tape! The mattress cover will kill anything that may have snuck in, and will protect the mattress from infestation if nothing has snuck in. You can actually rescue an infested mattress this way!
    3. I would NOT go back to work until they have sprayed at least a couple times. I would rather suffer any potential repercussions than bring home bedbugs. A serious infestation can be nearly impossible to get rid of, and once furniture is infested, you pretty much have to toss it. The one exception is the mattress method described above.
    4. Once you do go back to work, do not sit in a cloth chair! Sit in a vinyl or leather or plastic chair, anything but cloth.
    GOOD LUCK!

    1. kristinyc

      THIS.

      Also – if you have any cardboard boxes in your room near your bed, consider tossing them. They love to hide in the corrugation.

      Please call in today and do the things listed above (even just as a precaution). There are a ton of websites about home treatments for bedbugs, and a lot of them have some pretty scary images, but the things listed above can help prevent it.

      I live in NYC, where we all constantly fear bedbugs.

      (So, in my eyes – you’re not a pariah. Everyone in NYC has either been affected by bedbugs or knows at least 5 people who have).

      In NYC, you are constantly at risk of being exposed to bedbugs. Think about it – a lot of them are in hotels. Who stays in hotels? Tourists and business travelers. Where do they go? Shows, movie theatres, restaurants, clothing stores… and they bring bedbugs with them.

      Good luck with everything. You have my sympathy.

      1. The gold digger

        if you have any cardboard boxes in your room near your bed, consider tossing them. They love to hide in the corrugation.

        Slightly OT, but a lot of bugs like corrugated boxes. They eat the cornstarch that is used as the stiffening agent/adhesive.

        1. Anonymous

          Arrruggh! The cardboard box thing will give me nightmares now.

          Also, if you have a cat and use any of the “natural” (non clay) litter, beware. I had quite a sudden bug problem on my hands a little while ago with bugs breeding in my cat’s litter box. You’ve been warned!

  12. Ellen M.

    They may also (probably are) spreading to other floors or offices in the same building. Bedbugs are like fire, you must deal with it (them) immediately, the longer you ignore it the worse it gets, and it gets really bad very quickly. A friend of mine was on the board of his building and they had to deal with bedbugs twice in two years – exterminating the infected apartment, plus the apartments above and below, on either side, and across the hall. It was an effing NIGHTMARE for all involved.

  13. Sarah G

    p.s. You can find plenty of photos online, in terms of what to look for when inspecting your bed and furniture. Not pleasant, but it’s good to know what exactly you’re looking for.

  14. Original Poster

    I’m thinking it already must be a pretty bad infestation if workers are actually SEEING these things walking around. I always thought bedbugs were almost impossible to see, and this thing I caught today was very very tiny, but if at least three people have actually viewed them on their workstations, I shudder at the thought of how many are there that we are not seeing!!!

    1. Michelle

      How awful for you! Have you thoroughly checked your apartment yet?

      I’m with everyone else – if at all possible, you should stay home until they have sprayed and verified that the problem is corrected. A friend had to have her apartment sprayed several times over several weeks to take care of the problem.

      1. Samantha

        I would also consider charging the company for any costs you have for getting rid of the bedbugs.

        1. Lindsay H.

          I was thinking the exact same thing. The only hitch would be, could the company refuse to pay any charges under the defense of, “She could’ve caught bed bugs from any number of places; not just here.”?

          1. Ellen M.

            The company could also accuse the OP or another employee of being the bedbug source… anyone could point a finger at someone else, and in the meantime the bugs are everywhere and multiplying…

  15. Rana

    That is horrifying. I’d almost consider, if you’re forced to come in to work despite this disgusting infestation, designating a set of clothes, pair of shoes and whatever you use as a purse as bedbug sacrifices.

    Bring one ziploc bag to hold the contaminated items. Bring another bag for whatever clothes you use to travel from home to work and back. When you get to work, change in the bathroom, putting your travel clothes in the second ziploc to protect them (don’t let them touch anything cloth or carpeted on the way to the bathroom!). Then change into the “bedbug” clothes. At the end of the day, reverse the procedure.

    Up to you whether to toss the contaminated clothes or attempt to de-bug them.

    1. Anonymous

      This. If you cannot stay out of the office until after a full course of treatment, then please isolate your work clothing. While you’re at work, you may want to store your coat and bag in a Zip Loc, as well. BBs are teeny tiny and can get into everything. After the initial treatment, make sure that the pest control people will be coming back to do follow up inspections/treatments over the next few weeks. Spraying will kill the bugs, but not the eggs. They will need to treat after two weeks to kill any baby bed bugs.

      Ugh, gross. I feel for you, OP! One of my neighbors had bed bugs a couple of years ago and the rest of us living here freaked out. Fortunately, the entire building did not become infested but it definitely caused a panic. I still store everything in Zip Locs (my hamper is actually an XL Zip Loc), inspect my furniture once a week, have a designated indoor/outdoor clothing and do laundry constantly. It is exhausting.

      1. JT

        I was about to suggest the same thing if you have to go in to not lose your job, with stops at a gym (for a shower) and laundromat (to wash the day’s work clothes in the hottest water possible) on the way home. Every day. Or even disposing of the days clothes permanently, plus the hot showers on the way home.

        Also, don’t use cloth handbags or backpacks, get a vinyl bag. And keep everything off the floor and off cloth furniture at work.

        1. Samantha

          If I was forced to go into work (which I really doubt she would be) I would go to the media so fast it would make your head spin. See how much the company likes the cost of negative publicity compared to the cost of fumigating.

          1. erin

            This was my thought, too, but I wondered if the OP could get in trouble if the company somehow found out who spilled the beans.

        1. T.T.

          It’s similar to +1 and how you’d use that if agree with the post. It’s more than likely many different Anonymous posters doing that.

  16. Emily

    Some U.S. cities have opened hotlines during periods of widespread bedbug outbreaks so people can report building management (whether residential of commercial) that isn’t handling a bedbug infestation properly. That’s how serious a problem bedbugs are! I looked at a billboard advertising the number out of my office window every day for a year, but I’m grateful to never have had reason to call it! If such a system exists in your area, perhaps you can spur on the fumigation process from the outside.

  17. amy

    actually- i’ve dealt with them before. to take care of them properly, it’s thousands of dollars! for a huge call center as you mentioned, can’t even imagine the cost, and PLENTY of landlords “spray” their infested places because people don’t know any better. Spraying is relatively cheap and helps people believe they will be gone. They can carry to your home by getting on your clothes and purse. Do some research and find out how they are actually dealt with, chances are your office is not doing it the right way.

  18. Britt

    Oh my god I don’t know what I would do if this were me. I would probably ask my bosses to pay for a new apartment in exchange for my silence if that’s what they want! Seriously, if these things are sauntering across your desk, there are millions more you aren’t seeing. Boston recently went through this and the amount of trashed furniture was unreal. I’d go with the dr’s note and scour your home as suggested above. Also, make one of those anonymous calls. Not doing anything about an infestation immediately is unethical, unsanitary, and unprofessional. Anyone who just expecrs you to work through that as not to lose money is lacking some serious human decency.

  19. Long Time Admin

    Call the Health Department! Do it anonymously if you must, but call them. And all you co-workers, too!

    Don’t mess around with bedbugs. Employers will do the absolute minimum necessary, and then usually only when they’re forced to. I live in a buggy, termite, mostly rural area, and the guy who sprays my home for bugs told me bedbugs are very difficult to get rid of. More than one treatment is usually needed.

  20. Yucko

    If your employer rents office space, I would call the building management first. They are going to be much more concerned about the whole of their building than your company’s operation.

    If your call center has a parent company, I’d call corporate headquarters and alert them.

    I would also contact the health inspector. I’d also be tempted to talk with your personal landlord and see if their legal representation had some way to protect you (and their property/tenants).

    Like others have mentioned, it costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars to get rid of bed bugs correctly and would likely push you out of your home for a while.

    Good luck!

  21. Anonymous

    I would have someone come and search your home as soon as possible. And I would submit the receipt to the company.

  22. Scott Woode

    Oh, how petrifying! I’m not even in the same country and I’m feeling the need to itch myself silly! *Shudder*

    I wouldn’t even know the first place to start, but the suggestion about an emergency health inspection sounds brilliant. I’d go with that by making an anonymous phone call. Best of luck to you OP!

  23. AccidentalRecruiter

    Please tell me you are not in Toronto!!!!
    What a horrifying discovery to make at work – just awful.
    I hope you’re able to come back and tell us what happened and if you refused to go back to work.
    ps Please tell me you’re not in Toronto!

  24. Wayne Schofield

    Good suggestions to put the company on the hook for your personal bed bug eradication, but it doesn’t seem like they are going to be responsible. And I don’t mean legally responsible, I mean step up to the plate responsible. Sure, they have a job they have to get done, but that place should have been immediately vacated, fumigated and everyone in there should have changed their clothes on the way out the door and put them in a trash bag to be fumigated along with the offices. We are looking into maybe doing something this weekend just shows complacency and this doesn’t sound like the type of company that will do the right thing in the long run. I suggest you document your details and get co-workers to confirm details with you. I’m sure there will be some litigation. Especially when they have to close down for a couple of weeks to get this done right and they decide not to pay you and your co-workers. Not long enough to go on unemployment, but just enough to damage the books at home. Hope it doesn’t happen this way, but sounds like it.

  25. fposte

    Euchh. I’m so sorry. I agree with the isolation procedures recommended above for your work clothes.

    I will say, though, that when a co-worker presented with possible bedbugs in her new home, I looked at some recent discussions of spread and the transmission via human isn’t as inevitable as reports make it seem. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying it’s cool to work in an office with bedbugs, I’m saying that you might very well not have brought them home and that you don’t have to throw out everything at home now just in case.

    Keep us updated–I’m really curious to here what actions outside agencies are willing to take.

  26. KindaConfused

    “Nighty-night and don’t let the bedbugs bite”. Remember that? How is it that our parents and grandparents nearly eradicated the things, but we have this epidemic? What are we doing differently? I don’t get it.

      1. Anonymous

        DDT was introduced in the early 1940’s. By the late 1940’s bed bugs had developed resistance to it.

      1. Natalie

        The ban on DDT didn’t make a difference – bedbugs evolved a resistance to it pretty quickly (creatures with short life cycles evolve quickly) and were mostly immune to it before DDT was banned in the US.

      2. KindaConfused

        I am pretty sure DDT didn’t exist in my grandmother’s day…she was born in 1888. As I recall, she put powder of some kind on the floor near beds, and of course floors were wooden with few rugs.

          1. Long Time Admin

            And she probably washed everything in boiling water with lye soap.

            That’ll get the little buggers.

    1. Riki

      The discontinued use of DDT worldwide is a factor, but the major increase in global travel and general ignorance of the existence of bed bugs and how to deal with them are probably bigger factors. I have friends who travel for work 2-3 weeks each month, every month. They practically live in hotels. If they have the misfortune of staying in an infested hotel, they may end up carrying some bed bugs with them to their next destination and not even realize it. So, bed bugs are nothing new and will be around as long as humans are, but our modern lifestyles make it easier for them to *touch* more people over greater distances.

  27. Suzanne

    Although my reaction would be to not go in until the problem is cleared up, it would not surprise me if the OP does not have that option. Working at a call center is probably not a real career choice, but a job one takes because one needs the money. These types of places also aren’t generally terribly generous with benefits and my gut feeling is that if the OP calls in “sick” or suddenly takes a few vacation days after bringing this to her supervisors attention, she will probably face repercussions.

    1. Anonymous

      Maybe he has a rash, from all the bites. I know my dr would write a note for that. I’d tell them it was on my tushy and leave it at that if they pried, and not blame it on anything specific.

  28. Anonymous

    I agree with everyone else: if possible, don’t go back until the bugs are taken are of. Hopefully you won’t face any repercussions; however, given that the company may “possibly” spray on the weekend, and sat on the information from other employees, I don’t hold out much hope. Good luck and let us know what happened.

    My in-laws are going through this now, and have been for months. Unfortunately, they haven’t done what they need to do to get rid of them, other than to use some store-bought sprays. They really need to toss the furniture and tear up the rugs. My husband has refused to go to their house to finish up some work he was doing for them. He’s terrified that he’ll bring something home with him and I don’t blame him. They stopped by our house at Christmas time and as soon as they left we vacuumed all the furniture (luckily we don’t have rugs) and washed everything that could be washed. We are at the point where we might just offer to pay for the fumigation (over $2,000.00) since they obviously aren’t doing anything about it on their own.

  29. anonymous

    AAM, please put this on the list of “next year’s updates”…or sooner. :) I would love to hear an update about this. Bedbugs are so gross, and I really feel for the OP

  30. Elizabeth

    Your employers need to act ASAP. Bed bugs are hiders, so if they are walking around on desks in the middle of the day, you guys are likely infested heavily. If they won’t listen, get some research to back it up and get your co-workers involved.

    Inspect at home to make sure you don’t have them and then try to keep it that way. Hopefully, you have not brought them home yet. So if you haven’t, try to keep it that way using the methods Sarah G listed above.

    If you do have them at home, don’t panic. If you start tearing through your belongings and tossing stuff out, you may spread them around and/or lose things you don’t have to give up on. I speak from experience–I had bed bugs more than a few years ago at my house. They have been gone for at least a couple years, so I can honestly say that you can get rid of them, but you have to be diligent and you may lose some stuff. Spend some time doing a little research online so when you do act, you know what you’re doing and it works for you, because it takes a while to be sure you’re done with them. Sarah G has excellent tips above. I would add that the commercial pesticides can actually make things worse. Apparently, there are some bed bugs that are immune to the sprays. I recommend diatomaceous earth, which is cheap and not poisonous to people or (most) pets. You can spray it in crevices and corners. It kills them, but it is messy, so only use this on floors, bed frames, things you cannot wash and dry the bed bugs out of instead.

    I was always afraid I would bring them to work. I washed all my clothes and sheets so many times when I was getting rid of bed bugs. I would wrap my coat and purse in plastic bags at home, so I could be sure I didn’t bring them in with me the next day.

    1. anon

      This is all great advice. I also successfully battled bedbugs and I found that the all-over itching is a common psychological side effect, but it is real. If you had been bitten you would know it – the bites welt up and itch like nothing else, often in a three-bite line. You could confuse it for a longer-lasting uber-mosquito bite or a spider bite. That said, I guess about 5% of the population doesn’t react to bedbug bites at all. I managed to escape with only five bites total – pretty lucky.

      It’s also true that heat kills the buggers – when we come home from vacations now, everything goes into the dryer on high for 20 minutes right away.

  31. The gold digger

    Oh man! I had bedbugs when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile (“Peace Corps Lite,” we called it), renting a room from the crazy landlady Maruja la Bruja. I went to the hardware store to get something to get rid of them and the clerk very gingerly handed me a plastic bottle that had a skull and crossbones on it. “Be very very careful,” he advised me.

    I’ve always thought it was the fact that my cleaning lady was using my vegetable brush to scrub the toilet that gave me such a great immune system, but maybe there was something in that powder that made me bionic.

  32. Joey

    At minimum I’d at least discuss with your co workers what to do even though your boss said not to. The NLRA protects your right to discuss workplace issues such as this with co workers and your right to speak to your employer on behalf of one or more co workers to improve workplace conditions. That’s not to say they still won’t retaliate, but at least you know there are some legal protections.

  33. GeekChic

    OP, I’m in Canada and I asked our OH&S officer at work what she would say about your situation. Here is what she said:

    “That person’s employers are violating:

    1) OHS laws that require employers to ensure proper housekeeping and sanitary conditions. They also impose a general duty on employers to protect workers against reasonably foreseeable risks.

    2) Building codes that require building owners and occupants to protect the premises from rodents, mice and other infectious pests (in most provinces, bed bugs are a named pest in building codes, but even when they are not they have been seen as “infectious pests” in prior claims).

    The employers are also risking workers’ comp. claims as some people are allergic to bed bug bites. As well, workers’ comp. has been granted for mental anguish – which could easily be argued with bed bugs.

    I would tell this person to contact their local health department and building inspectors. Some areas of the country have specific bed bug reporting hotlines (855-362-2847 is Manitoba’s; 416-338-7600 is Toronto’s).

    Lastly, if this person is in a union, they have the right to refuse to work in unsafe or unsanitary conditions without repercussions.”

    I hope this helps you OP.

  34. nyxalinth

    Bedbugs are from hell. It might be a long shot, but you might also make an anonymous email to the people at the Consumerist, and do name the call center/company. They’re very good at shaming companies into doing the right thing, and unless the call center is willing to fire every single last employee to get rid of one snitch, I’d say you’re pretty safe.

    http://www.consumerist.com

    While they most handle consumer issues, they’re not resistant to slamming bad employers, either. Good luck to you.

  35. Anonymous

    I work for a pest control company in New York and we treat for bed bugs all the time. A complete treatment can be done over night. The days of just spraying are over, bed bugs can be eliminated with heat or cold treatments as well. Definietly put all of your clothes in the dryer on high for at 30 minutes; the heat of the dryer is better than a washing machine. Mattress & pillow encasements will help your peace of mind. Cedar oil is also a repellent, you might want to find some to spray you work chair and desk.

  36. Anonymous

    I forgot to say that heat and cold treatments eliminate the need to replace everything; we even treat computers.

    When people see the bed bug bites on themselves- those people are allergic. There are people who can be bittneenand never show any sign. That’s why it’s so hard to determine if a hotel room is bed bug free, they affect people differently

  37. Gene

    OK, now that the requisite panic and skeeviness have been repeated, here are some facts about bedbugs.

    Yes, they can fairly easily move from one place to another in your clothing and belongings.
    Yes, they are hematophagous (blood feeding).
    Yes, the bites can become infected or give rise to allergic response.

    No, they do not transmit any disease.
    No, a healthy adult is not likely to have any serious health effects from their bites.
    No, we won’t get rid of them.

  38. Heather

    In addition to what people posted above about D.E. and such, 90% isopropyl alcohol will kill on contact and the residue will be a slight deterrent. Good for use on mattress, chairs, and other things that you might worry carry tiny bedbugs or eggs.

  39. Anonymous

    I’d let slip “If the Health Department thinks we’re not acting fast enough, there could a bad press. Those folks leak to the media all the time!” Do you have something like a BBB? I would call any and every one I could think of.

    And if you must go to work, I’d buy a painter’s jumper at the local hardware store and wear that over some ratty clothes, so the whole thing can go into the wash or be destroyed. Washing/drying your clothes at a laundromat on a daily basis is beyond obsurd.

  40. becky

    When I was a kid we would visit my great aunt. My dad used to live across the street from her, but the house was gone. We asked another neighbor what happened. “It burned down, and good thing too! It had been rented and was full of bedbugs. Burning down the house is the only way to get rid of those things!” Of course, this was in the 1960’s and the neighbor was in his 70’s.

  41. Tara

    Im not trying to make a joke but seriously…Purchase one of those biohazards suits and show up to work in it. Technically your not “SAYING” anything about the office having bed bugs.

  42. Blue Dog

    Ug! My son was at UCLA and somehow bedbugs got into the dorms. They absolutely could not get rid of them. Then he brought them home. Our life was a living hell for about 2 months. Bottom line was we replaced all mattresses, bought covers for the new mattresses, had to take EVERYTHING out of the house, spray it three times (one week apart), and then wash and dry everything before it came back in. It was the functional equivalent of packing to move (except we had no place to go and our lives were on hold for 3 weeks) and then a hundred loads of laundry.

    I would immediately buy mattress protectors and wash all bedding and anything near your sofas or beds. When you come home from work, you should strip down outside and run in and shower. Then bag your clothes in plastic bags and keep them in the garage until it is time to wash them.

  43. Jamie

    I’ll admit I’ve just scanned the comments, because I’m so skeeved out by the topic – but I wanted to see if there was an update and to ask a question:

    Is this a regional thing? I’ve never known anyone IRL to mention bedbugs, and until I saw it on a King of Queens episode I thought they were apocryphal and the usage was just kept alive from that little ditty, “sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

    You know, like the Ring Around the Rosy chant…I’ve never known anyone to have a pocket full of posies, either.

    So the questions are: Is this a regional thing and is the Chicago area somehow exempt? And if not, and they are so small they are hard to see, AND the bites only swell on people with certain reactions how do you know if someone in your office has them?

    Seriously – is there a way to check?

    1. Brightwanderer

      It’s not regional so much as generational, as I understand it. Bedbugs were a constant and well-known problem until the start of the 20th century, but advances in pesticides (see the DDT conversation above) all but wiped them out halfway through the century. The whole time I was growing up, certainly, they were just a thing you’d hear about, not a real problem. In recent decades, there’s been a sudden resurgence, partly because the harsher pesticides have fallen out of favour, partly because the bugs have developed resistance, and partly, they think, because of increased international travel. So now all of a sudden there are these infestations that people don’t know how to deal with, and don’t realise the severity of, because, as you say – “Bedbugs? Are those things REAL?”

      I’ve certainly known people in the UK (London and the south coast) with infestations.

  44. Original Poster

    Update:

    Today it has been one full week since I found the bed bug and turned it in to management.

    No fumigation has been carried out.

    No notification has been sent to staff.

    I asked when the fumigation would be carried out, I was told they were consulting with the pest control company and the pest control company had to hire more staff in order to carry out the fumigation during the six hours the business is closed. See, they don’t want to close for one second it appears.

    I was told they were working on some kind of email to inform staff, however, they were worried about what to put in it, because they were concerned about panicking people. I suspect what they’re really concerned about is people refusing to come to work.

    I have bed bug bites all over my right shin. I took photos of them today.

    I called three departments: Occupation Health, the Department of Health, and the Labor Board. Not one of them had ever had such a call before.

    The labor board in particular couldn’t get their head around bed bugs in an office. “Are there beds there or something? Do you work in a nursing home?”

    The health department said it was going to look into it.

    Occupational health and safety said it was more of a health department issue.

    This afternoon, as I was ripping my bedroom apart in despair and vacuuming every crevice of my bed, I found a bed bug in the seam of my mattress.

    I want to vomit and have a nervous break down.

    I don’t know what to do.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Would you consider alerting the media? Especially if you have a local news station with a consumer affairs type reporter. A call from a reporter might be just the thing to spur your office into action. Meanwhile, talk to your coworkers — you all need to speak with one voice on this and demand action.

      1. Original Poster

        Today the department of health phoned me and asked to come and inspect my apartment for bed bugs.

        They inspected, and said they found no signs of a bed bug infestation despite the bug I found yesterday. They ripped my bed apart and did a thorough inspection and said the bug I found yesterday I probably had carried home with me.

        They have been in touch with my employer. They say my employer sent an all staff email yesterday (I wasn’t at work) regarding the infestation.

        However, there still has been no fumigation.

        The health department is now determining whether to go in on their own to inspect.

          1. Original Poster

            Yes, it does. I find it very unfortunate that an employee had to spend a week phoning authorities before some action was taken.

            I was very pleased that the Health Department was so proactive as to ASK to come to my place to inspect! I also feel much better because their clean bill of health means my employer cannot accuse ME of being the carrier!

            However, they did tell me a few things which I found very disturbing. They told me the employer first became aware of the problem in late 2011. (staff weren’t informed till yesterday, mind).
            They said the employer had pest control in three times since then to release bombs. The last fumigation was in January (I found my bug on Feb. 8) and all this time, staff were blissfully unaware.

            They also said, and this is what galls me, that the pest control company took bug sniffing dogs to some employees houses!!!
            I am, of course, assuming these houses that got the privilege of bug sniffing dogs were management houses, while we workers toiled away in ignorance!

            1. erin

              This is so horrendous. I would echo AAM’s suggestion about going to the media. Heck, get a friend who doesn’t work at the company to submit a tip to the media for you.

  45. Original Poster

    Update:

    So the plot has thickened even more horribly.

    I am banned from work at the moment (as of today) without pay, no less, and here is why:

    After the health department got involved, the employer decided to call in the employees who had reported bed bugs and update them on the situation.

    So they called me in, and they explained everything they had been doing et cetera.

    Then they made what I thought was a very generous offer that they said they were making to all employees who had reported bed bugs: They would bring THEIR pest control company to my apartment, at their expense, to check for bugs.

    Stupidly, I agreed.

    Today, their pest control company came and we inspected my bed together. They found one bed bug, immediatly packed up, and left. I was standing there saying “um, what do I do now?” They more or less shrugged and said “Oh, we’ll be in touch with your employer.”

    Well, my employer then called and advised me I cannot return to work until my building is fumigated and I present them with proof that I am clean. Oh, when I asked who would pay for this, they said my landlord or me.

    When I asked if I would be paid for not being allowed to work, they said no.

    When I asked if they were going to inspect the apartment of all 200 employees and ban every employee found with bedbugs, they said they were not planning to do so.

    When I pointed out that I felt that I was being singled out and punished because I brought the bed bug issue to their attention, they said this was not the case.

    Of course, I do not plan to let it end there. The call centre has a contract with a MAJOR MAJOR (I mean HUGE) mobile device provider, the richest in the world if you know what I mean, and that company does not like bad publicity. This call centre does all of Canada for this California based company so you know where I’m going with this. . .

    I am SO PISSED. Also, I am calling my lawyer in the morning. Probably my doctor too to get put on stress leave.

      1. Original Poster

        Oh, they are first on my list tomorrow morning. Before my lawyer, after my doctor.

  46. Original Poster

    Oh, one more point, I reiterated to them over and over again that the reason a bed bug was found in my apartment was exactly what I feared in the first place – that I brought them HOME from THEIR office!!!! They found them in December, and didn’t tell anyone until late February, and when I found one on my desk, they told me not to tell anyone!!!
    Why didn’t they send me home THAT day? After all, I was found with a bed bug!!!! It would have been better at least then I wouldn’t have dragged the nasty monsters home with me!!!

  47. Wayne Schofield

    OP…they are looking for a scapegoat. I’ll make a couple of suggestions…get info to document your entire story and timeline. If you can save emails then do it. (it sounds like you might not be able to where they have locked you out of the office) but this sounds like it is going to get nastier…and not from your side, but from theirs. It’s March and now they are taking these actions to “lock out the bedbugs”. Get them eradicated from your home and keep all of your receipts. Try to keep calm and think rationally because they are probably going to point to the person who screams the loudest (figuratively) and say there…that’s the person who brought these things into our offices, and you don’t want that to be you. Good luck and remember..cooler heads prevail in situations like this.

  48. Original Poster

    That is very good advice and luckily, I have documented everything because I was afraid this very thing would happen.
    My best defense is going to be the inspection from the department of health in mid February. That is documented on their end – and they gave me a clean bill of health! That was before the fumigation at work so I have a very good argument that I took them home after that.
    You are very right about them finding a scapegoat. I kept saying “but I got these at work” and they kept saying “you can’t prove that”.

    I was VERY rational on the phone with them yesterday, however, I was also very clear on my position on this. I did cause them to be speechless several times (when I revealed that I had the department of health over because I feared this very thing would happen for example).

    It ended with them agreeing to call my landlord to perhaps negotiate something, and agreeing to give me vacation pay for these days.

    However, that is still not acceptable to me because I am being required to resolve and finance an issue that they precipitated AND be refused pay for their own delinquency.

  49. Original Poster

    The health department is sending me a copy of their clean bill of health, by email.

    Also, I have retained legal counsel. Thank God I have a wonderful son who has money to pay the retainer and back me up on this.

    I am visiting my doctor this afternoon for stress because I am so upset about this.

    I do not intend to ever return to that workplace. I do not intend to ever speak to them again personally. My lawyer can speak to them for me.

    I intend to ask for a settlement.

    1. Anonymous

      OP, any updates? I’m guessing perhaps there won’t be any once you’ve retained legal counsel, but we can hope… :)

  50. Original Poster

    Well, my lawyer is awesome!!! She is the best labour lawyer in my province. I emailed her my timeline in advance and we sat there with her reading it. After she was done, she put it down and said: “Well, they say in this business there is a first time for everything. . .”

    She was astounded and flabbergasted.

    She says I am definitely entitled to damages, the question is: how much? The problem is this is Canada, and there is NO case law regarding bedbugs in an office place in this country AT ALL.

    In Canada, we don’t do massive judgements, so I know we won’t be asking for a million or so. Anyway, they are researching the damages issue now and trying to come up with a figure to present my employer with.

    We’re going with several tactics: duty to disclose, the employers obligation to keep the workplace free of “pests and vermin”, discrimination based on the fact that no one else has been inspected and sent home. Oh, and don’t forget trauma!!!!

    In the meantime, I am on medical leave. My doctor also was horrified and he suggested I not return until they present me with what they asked for: a certificate stating that THEY are clean from bedbugs!

    My apartment, meanwhile, was fumigated last week.

    I had the department of health and the pest control company come prior to carry out another inspection. They did it jointly.
    They found one bug and very little evidence of bed bugs. I asked them flat out if based on their findings, I could be the source of the infestation. They said “highly unlikely”.

    1. Anonymous

      I’m wondering if you live in Brantford? I used to work in a call center there years ago for a major mobile provider and would not be surprised if this is the same place!

  51. Ask a Manager Post author

    I emailed the OP today to ask if there’s any update on her situation. Here’s her response, reprinted here with her permission:

    “I had a meeting with my lawyer this very morning. In April we sent them a letter asking for a relatively small monetary settlement (this is Canada after all, no big settlements here). They replied saying not only would they not settle, but they would counter-sue ME as the CAUSE of the problem. Well, that as you probably know was just a “screw you we’ll scare her away”. However, we have drafted a statment of claim, which will be the first such case in Canada, so it will be precedent setting. We will be sending it to them next week, with a letter saying it will be filed in the Supreme Court on such and such a date, and this is your last chance to settle. We expect them to settle. If they don’t, we know we have an iron-clad case anyway.

    My lawsuit is for constructive dismissal, failure to obey the occupational health and safety act (an employer must keep a workplace free from pests and vermin), negligence (they failed to advise employees last fall when they first became aware they were infested) and pain and suffering.”

  52. Jill of All Trades

    Does Canada have class action lawsuits? I would think your co-workers would have a case for everything you do except for the dismissal (and 200 people suing would surely teach your former employers a thing ot two about “mass panic”). I really hate that you’ve had to go through this ordeal, and they’re making it worse by not settling. I really hope something good comes from this. Keep us posted please!

  53. Caitlin

    Any update? I live here in the US and we have just gotten a report from management stated they have seen bedbugs but for no one to panic. (yeah okay.)

  54. IthinkIworkedwiththisperson

    So I’m pretty sure I worked with this person, the hints being “major major company from California” and the details presented in her story.
    I had also overheard of a employee being on leave due to a legal dispute about this situation.
    The company did know about the infestation for months before telling anyone, and only did so on an internal site that is infrequently accessed by employees.

    The first hint to anything being off was 2 of our lounge area couches being tossed by the dumpster, slashed apart. We were told that they were intending to buy new couches and decided to just throw these out. Needless to say, this never happened.

    The bed bugs have come back, and the management has tried to keep it quiet again, having sprayed overnight without giving enough time to air the center out.

    I am actively trying to find a new job but the market really sucks here.

    The center is carpeted from wall to wall in the production area, and the cubicle divers are hollow, insulated and covered with fabric. Basically it’s an ideal environment for bed bugs.

    The management are merely putting a band-aid on a persistent problem, they still keep the chairs around that could be infested. They are only treating the insides of the cubicles with a powder, (I assume is partly diatomaceous earth) I try to keep the same seat but because we don’t have assigned seating, that can be hard. Thankfully (?) the bugs that were found recently are at the other end of the
    production area from me, but I know it’s quite possible that they’re everywhere.

    After this recent incident, I was considering contacting the health board, but from finding out what a fellow employee went through, I am hesitant to put myself in the spot light.

    I’ve been bagging my clothes that I wore to work in my bathroom after each shift, and have been constantly checking for signs of bugs.
    I go to school full time in addition to working, so I really don’t have the time or money to go on stress leave or to get a lawyer. I guess I already know that my employer won’t compensate me for time I’ve missed. And apparently my coworker, who I never really knew more than just in passing, hasn’t found a happy ending.

  55. Ryan

    I live in Canada such as the OP, same province and today I found out I have bed bugs at home and there 100% from work. Little bit different of a situation, I’m the Maintenance supervisor for a big residential building, but I don’t live their. I was not in charge of the treatment nor were we in anyway properly trained. They have admitted wrong and are paying for expenses to ‘fix’. The problem is, I rent and i’m worried about costs down the road if there ‘fix’ doesn’t work.
    I love my job and career but I need to protect myself incase my company pulls what they did on the OP.
    I also have a confidentiality agreement that goes along with the position.

    Any suggestions? Help

  56. Siobhan

    Hi there, I think I’ve got a bed bug problem:/
    I’ve got a very old mattress and have noticed red bloody
    Smudges on the sheets and pillow cases sometimes it’s a lot
    I’ve got bitten but they mainly like biting my boyfriend, the bites look
    Like a small red dot and a red circle around it he gets a lot around his stomach, I haven’t seen any bed bugs yet but can feel them crawling on me at night might be paranoid so I checked in the corners of mattress and found a lot of small black specks is this bed bug poo?? Pleeease help :( siobhan

  57. Curious

    I’ve wondered what happened to my coworker. Still see the Orkin guy now and then. BTW This happened at HGS Canada

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