our coworker came to work when his family had COVID-19 symptoms

A reader writes:

I work in a small department of six that is family-like. One of our coworkers, “Claude,” is nice enough but he tends to do things that offend. He always grabs the first donut, or jumps to the front of the line during office potluck or pizzas. Afterwards, he disappears and doesn’t offer to help. These are all food-related offenses, but that’s where his social deficiencies most come to light.

In early March, right when COVID-19 was starting to affect our area, Claude left the office early on a Friday because his daughter was sent home from school with a fever. On Monday morning, another coworker, Jim, asked about his kid and Claude said she was better but his wife also had a fever and a dry cough all weekend. Alarmed that she was exhibiting the primary symptoms of COVID-19, Jim asked Claude why he was in the office, to which he replied, “I’m fine … I slept on the sofa” (in his small two-bedroom condo). Deeply unsettled, Jim told our director about Claude’s home situation, and Claude was instructed to leave immediately and stay home for 14 days. By coincidence, later that day, a company-wide directive instructed all employees to work from home until further notice.

We’re on our fourth week at home and none of us have seen Claude since the incident. The rest of us have been on a text chain. We’re all angry that Claude created a situation where he could have spread this virus throughout the office. It’s puzzling because he’s not a dumb person. Also, his wife is a health care worker, so it’s improbable that they were in ignorance. There’s a possibility that because he has primary childcare responsibility and his kid gets sick often, he was trying to save his sick days prior to COVID-related leave policies being implemented.

He might be feeling the cold shoulder because he sent a “What’s up, guys?” text in week 2 that no one responded to.

Do we say anything to Claude? Of the various office personalities, I would be the logical person to say something, but what would be the best way? I don’t really have a digital relationship with him so text, Insta, etc. would be weird. I don’t want to send anything via company email. Do I leave a note/letter on his desk? Do I wait until we’re all back to working in the office and pull him aside? I’m not keen to get involved and it’s looking like another 3-4 weeks of working from home, so maybe it’s better to let it all slide?

Claude was really reckless and irresponsible … but given how much time has passed and the fact that you’re not in regular contact, I don’t think you need to initiate a special communication about it until you’re back at work.

To be clear, Claude put you all at risk, as well as anyone you lived with or were still physically around (including not just your loved ones, but strangers in public too and especially anyone in a higher-risk group). What he did was either remarkably ignorant or remarkably negligent.

And it would have been fine to call him on it immediately or soon after, including contacting him after he’d been sent home to say, “Dude, you put us all at risk, and everyone we come in contact with. Are you not clear on the public health rules right now and why we have them? You need to quarantine yourself and stop risking giving other people a virus that could kill them.”

But at this point … it’s been four weeks, and (it sounds like) none of you got sick. It’s still awful of him because he could have gotten people sick — and really, it’s possible he did pass it to someone who become an asymptomatic carrier and infected someone else. We probably can’t know. But at this point, you’ve passed the period where there’s a time-sensitive need to contact him and make sure he understands the situation.

That doesn’t mean you can’t say something to him. You can — and if this has shaken your trust in his judgment, you do need to clear the air at some point. But since you’re not in regular contact and you say the communication methods you have right now would be weird, I’d wait until you’re back at work* and talk in-person. At that point, you can say, “I was taken aback that you came into work and risked exposing us all, which could have had serious consequences for us or other people. Were you not clear on the symptoms or the risk of transmission at that point?” … and maybe, “I want to make sure you’re not going to put us at risk like that again.”

But meanwhile, while you’re still working from home … are you and your coworkers freezing him out? If it’s just that no one responded to one “what’s up?” text from him, whatever. But if people are actively ostracizing him, that’s a problem — and that would make me think it’ll need to be addressed sooner rather than later, because you can’t actively ostracize a colleague. You don’t need to socially embrace this Typhoid Mary — actions have consequences — but you do still need to work with him. If things are at that point, it might even be worth talking to his manager about what’s going on, so she can make him aware of the need to repair his relationships.

* Your letter mentioned another 3-4 weeks of working from home. It’s almost certainly going to need to be longer than that. Be prepared to push back with public health guidance if your company starts seriously planning to bring you back in mid-May.

{ 357 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A lot of people have been arguing below that four weeks ago, many people were still uninformed about the need to quarantine yourself if you’d potentially been exposed to COVID-19. That is true in some parts of the world (and the U.S.) and not true in others. We don’t know where the OP and Claude live, but this was the workplace response at the time:

    “Deeply unsettled, Jim told our director about Claude’s home situation, and Claude was instructed to leave immediately and stay home for 14 days. By coincidence, later that day, a company-wide directive instructed all employees to work from home until further notice.”

    That doesn’t read to me like an environment where people were still cavalier about this.

    1. Sammi*

      Especially since the director had such an immediate reaction, this should be brought up at his semi-annual performance review (or quarterly, if they have not yet been done). He needs to be told that his behavior was so below a professional level, it’s hard to know where to begin. To me, it’s worth a performance improvement plan, to bring him up to speed (which could include his food-related shortcomings, if wanted).

      Just my thoughts, as a former manager.

        1. Poor Clod*

          I want to know what language would be used to address Claude’s “food-related shortcomings.”

          I feel like “my manager put me on a PIP for taking the first donut” would make a great letter to AAM.

          1. Arctic*

            You will be taken off PIP if you don’t spread an apocalyptic plague for the next nine months and you remain second or more in line for donuts in the next five months.

            1. ampersand*

              This is hilarious and yet…that apocalyptic plague part is more or less accurate.

      1. NapkinThief*

        Also the fact that this was intentionally kicked up to management by a peer based on their conversation. At that time Jim got it, the director got it, and that same day it became clear upper management definitely got it. I understand OP’s frustration if it seems like Claude is the only one not getting it.

        Plus, in the wake of what we DO know now, I think I were in Claude’s shoes I would be mortified that I had potentially put my whole workplace at risk. It probably comes off as tone deaf for him to just pop in with “what’s up, guys” without acknowledging that. Ideally Claude would have been the one to say something, like “Hey guys, How are you holding up? Just wanted to say I’m sorry for not taking this seriously when my family was showing symptoms. It turns out fortunately we are all fine, but looking back now I can see it was a huge risk for me to come in that day, and I feel terrible that I could have exposed you to something so deadly.”

        Since Claude lacks that awareness, now OP is put in the position to have to clear the air – which I think they definitely should. Otherwise the resentment is just going to build and damage your working relationship.

        1. Rita S*

          I’m the Original Poster/Letter Writer….
          thank you…you’re one of the few people that really got why I wrote the letter in the first place. I feel that Claude should be made aware because our other coworkers are still REALLY pissed off. I’ve cooled off and want to clear the air and give him that opportunity to make the situation right.

          I like Claude generally and the examples of the “donut crimes” was more for context about his overall cluelessness.

          1. Newly commenting*

            “Make the situation right”? He did that when he went home immediately. Management handled it (which is their job, not yours and your coworkers’). What you’re looking for is for Claude to grovel and publicly acknowledge his wrong to you all, who are holding a grudge against a coworker during a pandemic. By this point, you guys are the problem, not him, he amended what he could on his end weeks ago.

            1. The Supreme Troll*

              I think this is really unfair. Maybe, yes, Claude’s coworkers DO want him to “publicly acknowledge his wrong”…which is reasonable to ask. The OP, Jim, and his fellow co-workers have a right to be taken aback at Claude’s clear lack of common sense. I’m not saying that you said this, but I’m just putting out the obvious (respectfully and I know everyone knows this) – that this is no joke, and is a life & death situation.

            2. Working Hypothesis*

              I disagree. Claude was give no choice but to go home; it was a direct order from his boss. That means he has STILL not shown any sign whatsoever of recognizing that he did something deeply irresponsible and dangerous to his co-workers. It’s not demanding groveling to want to make sure he understands that he screwed up badly, and that in future he needs to make other people’s safety the priority over his own convenience.

              If he had responded to a co-worker pointing out the problem to him at the time with “Oh, crap, you’re right! I wasn’t thinking. Stay over there and I’ll gather up my things right now and get out of here before I can do any damage I haven’t done already,” I would agree that he didn’t need to be called out on the behavior again. But he didn’t. He simply followed a direct order from his manager without giving any sign that he even knew why he was being told to go home, let alone accepted the necessity and realized that he should have been there all along.

              1. Avasarala*

                I agree with you. Claude has a general pattern of not thinking about his coworkers’ desires and safety, and this time it was severe. I don’t think he needs a PIP but people are questioning his judgment and he should know why he needs to mend those relationships.

            3. At Home*

              Could not agree more. Nothing came of it. A guy had a sick kid at home before all the quarantine orders set in. He himself was not sick, as the original headline indicated. He texted to check in on his coworkers who had decided to hold a grudge against him. He’s an annoying but probably harmless guy who made the mistake of liking donuts and not cleaning up after pot lucks.

                1. Burnt out*

                  Agree. It’s like people who want to sue when something bad could have happened or for “emotional damages” from something that, in the grand scheme of things, is relatively common and minor.

                  I’d want to have someone clarify for Claude what proper protocol is in the future, but freezing him out is jerkish behavior and putting him on a PIP seems ridiculous to me.

              1. D'Arcy*

                It is unreasonable to dislike a coworker for having different taste in snacks. That is not at all comparable to someone who negligently endangers the lives of the entire company by what is *at best* willful stupidity.

            4. D'Arcy*

              Under the circumstances, it is absolutely reasonable and justified for everyone to hold a grudge against Claude.

    2. Smithy*

      I work in NYC for an international aid organization with a large health team. We were mobilized early in many ways – however, in our actual office in HQ in NYC, our early guidelines on what to do were fuzzy. The overall process was so fuzzy that there was a day where there was literally a panicked whisper announcement to immediately leave the office due to potential exposure.

      My organization broadly speaking was not remotely cavalier, however a lot of policies in early March in NYC still included a lot of individual discretion that led to decisions (and confusion) around how they should be interpreted.

      I still think you’re right that in some places, this behavior would be wildly inappropriate. But I do believe that even among institutions that “knew better” the translation from policy to clear directive was still coming to place in many workplaces.

    3. Arctic*

      But the post doesn’t suggest the office had instituted any policy or guidance for COVID-19, either. (Surely if OP could mention the grave sin of taking the first donut violating the policy would be named as well.) So, it doesn’t sound like an area where they were being hyper-vigilant about it either.

    4. Malarkey01*

      Kids were still in school though. That was the first thing that started shutting down in the different regions I work in.

    5. LGC*

      Maybe, maybe not. I was one of the people that commented below about it coming up on being a month since Rudy Gobert day (or Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson day, if that’s your preference), but even Italy didn’t go on lockdown until…I think March 11.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        Lombardy on 3/8, the rest of Italy the following day. I remember because I was on vacation (in Spain) and flew home on 3/8, landed to see announcement of the Lombardy lockdown pop-up on my phone, which was my first oh $h!t moment.

        I’d been aware of the outbreak on vacation, using hand sanitizer and washing hands as much as I could. But things like asymptomatic transmission and living on hard surfaces for days were not well known, even in the health care community, at the time. So I saw patients all day on Monday, March 9 before entering home quarantine, for which I got some pushback from administration because I was asymptomatic, and a lot of pushback from patients angry about their appointments being rescheduled.

    6. JamieS*

      That just proves it was an environment where Jim wasn’t cavalier about it. We don’t know what the general attitude of their area was. The fact their workplace instituted a WFH order also doesn’t show that because that was a fairly abrupt change and we don’t know what, if any, previous communication OP’s company conveyed. We also can’t dismiss the misinformation that’s constantly spread where one day some govt. officials and media are saying it’s no big deal and the next are telling us we’re all at death’s door.

      Regardless it sounds like OP and company are acting extremely unprofessional and downright childish by refusing to communicate with Claude.

  2. Turquoisecow*

    Just want to point out this sentence:

    “Claude,” is nice enough but he tends to do things that offend.”

    Doesn’t sound like a nice person to me. Either he’s just self-centered and clueless or he’s deliberately mean, but either way, his actions aren’t those of a “nice” person.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t know if he’s nice or not, but he sounds a bit thoughtless or that he lacks in conscientiousness (I mean, that would certainly track with his behavior). Those are frustrating qualities, but they are not necessarily indicative of a “bad” or “not nice” person.

        1. Nita*

          Yeah. I have close family members like that. Anyone who knows them socially would 100% say they’re “nice” and wouldn’t have a bad thing to say about them. Being actually related to them, however, is another story. I know they have a long history of being clueless to the point where it harms other people (including spreading infectious disease). Thankfully they’re taking COVID-19 seriously now, but they kind of had to be forced to – if NYC hadn’t shut down when it did, they’d be the last ones to stop attending completely unnecessary “fun stuff” that involves large crowds of people.

      1. Anonapots*

        This is what I thought, too. He’s shown he’s thoughtless in other areas. That he was thoughtless here shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as it seems to be.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I think that I am well liked by my coworkers and I have some of the same behaviors that Claude has. But I feel that I am usually commended for that. I will take the first donut, cut the first slice of cake, jump (I’m assuming jump means gets in line first and not actually cutting in line, I have never done that) first in line for the potluck etc… People usually thank me (unless its a sarcastic thanks?) for being the first one to break the barrier. In new groups/situations I will allow a few seconds for someone else to be first after an invitation for food has been issued but if no one moves I will do it, I notice that after I go ahead then other people happily follow suit. For some reason people are afraid to be seen as the first one to get food and I guess I don’t care. But again I work in a fairly small office and I think I am liked by coworkers, maybe my coworkers would also describe me as nice, but having social deficiencies.

        1. AKchic*

          That’s how I looked at it with the food stuff, too.

          Nobody wants to be seen as the “first” and thought of as a greedy, gluttonous person, so they will all hold back until someone goes first (almost like a sacrificial lamb). It’s silly because everyone is there to eat, but nobody wants to be the first one to go.

          I think everyone is miffed because Claude has decided to both fall on the grenade (he knows this is a societal quirk and has no time for it) and just doesn’t like the song and dance of small talk and social politeness and leaves the group chit chat with his food to go do something else (work, relax, whatever). So, he is breaking the group/societal norm of interacting while breaking communal bread, which ruffles feathers as well. Depending on his personality, home or work life, he may be all “talked out” or just not have the bandwidth for chit chat and really want to decompress while eating. Getting knocked for it is sad.

          Depending on country, Claude’s reaction to his wife/child’s symptoms may very well be in line with official reactions and are to be expected. He did exactly what was modeled by officials at the time. It’s a failing of the officials for downplaying the problem.

          1. somanyquestions*

            I think you’re trying to make a lot of excuses for someone who sounds self-centered and lacking in empathy.

          2. tetris replay*

            The issue probably isn’t skipping the chit-chat, it’s partaking (first and visibly) and then never helping with clean up. Hence, “disappears and doesn’t offer to help.”

          3. Laure001*

            Not volunteering to clean up is not breaking social norms. It’s being selfish.
            Not a big deal but… A deal. :) If you are selfish about this, what else are you going to be selfish about?

        2. boo bot*

          I read “jumps to the front of the line” as meaning that Claude actually does cut in front of other people, but I think the real issue was that he doesn’t socialize or help clean up afterward, while everyone else does.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Yes the not helping part is not cool, I definitely stick around or come back to help during clean up time. We have/had a co-worker like that in the office, now we just tell them Claude we need you to wipe the table down, wash this, throw this in the trash etc…

              1. Starbuck*

                But also men acting clueless (“oh I just didn’t see the mess” & “if you wanted help you could have just asked”) is damn exhausting. A grown adult in the workplace should know to clean up after themselves, it’s not an unreasonable expectation.

              2. Avasarala*

                If you’re an adult, hell over the age of 10, you should be able to use your brain and look at what needs to be done to keep an area clean and do it well without needing to be told.

                1. allathian*

                  True, but the thing is that some people do need to be told. If that’s the case, it’s better to just tell them rather than grumble over why the clueless Claude never does anything.
                  I’m always grateful to our department director, because he’ll happily fill the dishwasher. Sometimes I’ve even seen him empty it. He’s in his early 40s and doesn’t think that’s beneath his dignity, unlike some of his older colleagues who just dump their dishes in the sink expecting someone else (usually a woman, sigh) to clean up after them.

                2. Avasarala*

                  By your own example though, the women somehow know to clean up their dishes in the sink. Did someone explicitly tell them? Or have they just been socialized to clean up after themselves and others, as we should socialize everyone to do?

                  I agree they should just tell Claude, but that doesn’t mean he should be forgiven. It’s learned helplessness.

        3. Howard S*

          Yeah office food politics are weird. In an ideal world people could freely eat freely given food without considering their social impact, but ultimately I think this is a case where it’s important to understand the unwritten food rules in a particular office, even if those rules are stupid.

        4. kittymommy*

          Yeah, I don’t really find the first to get food examples as that egregious. In my office no one wants to be the first to get a donut so the damn things sit there until noon! I don’t really like the not helping pick-up but maybe just ask him once and see what he says. People can be super dim and he may just not know any better. To me these have nothing to do with his absolutely asinine behavior with not staying at home when his family was exhibiting symptoms. That’s inexcusable.

        5. Clorinda*

          That might be the case in your office, but Claude has evidently misread his office’s culture, because it seems that nobody appreciates his sacrifice in throwing himself on the first donut.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            When every I bring donuts into the office I usually double (sometimes even triple) up on what tend to be the most popular kinds to try and avoid people being upset at someone going first and taking the “best” one, or I will give fist dibs to our building door person so that no one in the office can be blamed for taking the best one.

            As a joke I should try to find out the most commonly hated donut in my office and only bring in a dz or 1/2 dz of those.

            1. short'n'stout*

              Just make a note of what gets picked last/left over next time, and order that for the time after :D

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I really wanted to do it, but didn’t feel like wasting $12 on a joke and donuts that won’t be eaten. But I just remembered that my local donut shop has a 50/70% off late at night around 3/5pm. I can buy the joke set the night before, at a discount, and then bring in the real donuts the day of.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        I mean, regardless of his intentions, he’s doing things that the OP (and others) perceive as not nice. Even outside of this situation, he seems to be doing not-nice things. How can a “nice” person do things that aren’t nice – consistently enough that OP mentions it?

        Does Claude deserve to be shut out and unfriended and ostracized? I don’t think so, but you can’t list a bunch of not nice things and then say the person is nice. This is like those advice columns where the LW says their SO is “wonderful”, except for a long list of horrible abusive behaviors.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I mean, regardless of his intentions, he’s doing things that the OP (and others) perceive as not nice.

          Yup, which is why I suspect they’re still mad at him now for coming to work when his family was sick. He clearly does things they consider highly inconsiderate, and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Because people can have blind spots? People are multifaceted? Does a person have to be constantly, unrelentingly nice in every aspect of their behaviour at all times in order to be considered nice? We are only hearing about this person in the context of a short anonymised letter about a situation where he’s already annoyed the OP, we’re not exactly getting a well-rounded look at his entire personality here.

          I know a lot of people who I absolutely would describe as nice people who have certain habits or behaviours that aren’t that nice. My mum is lovely person but gets really aggressive about bad drivers. One of my colleagues is lovely but would trample his grandmother for free food. My best friend is a wonderful person but talks over you in conversation a lot. Do those things cancel out every nice aspect of their personalities? I don’t think they do. I don’t see why Claude can’t be a nice person on balance who also takes the first doughnut.

          1. Thankful for AAM*

            Event planner girl, I would not describe your coworker or friend as nice or lovely people. Based on the (short) descriptions you gave, I’d say they are people, normal people, with all the good and bad traits that come with people. But if I were going to describe someone as nice, I would expect them to be consistently and frequently nice. My mom is often kind and helpful and she is an aggressive driver. I dont think I would ever describe her as nice. I have a coworker who is consistently nice to everyone, nice is a term I would use for her.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              So just to be clear, if somebody has a singular bad trait, no matter how nice or kind or lovely they are otherwise, that person cannot be described as nice? That’s your position?

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Or possibly it’s just that people who have a pretty typical balance of good and bad traits should not be described as “nice,” because that’s a description which calls, by definition, for being nicer than average.

                I think there’s a common tendency to describe anyone average to slightly less nice than average as still “nice” for the same reason many colleges have grade inflation: nobody wants to be the person who judges someone else in a disappointing way unless they are REALLY overwhelmingly deserving of the dismissal.

          2. Mints*

            Yeah, and I think there are some office-food weirdness that you might legitimately be clueless about. I remember being clueless about letting doors slam closed at friends’ houses in like high school because I grew up with doors that closed normally (like you had to pull them shut) and screen doors that could slam were weird to me so I didn’t know it was bad manners to let them close loudly. A friend’s dad said “Geez, Mints, were you raised in a barn?” and me, not getting what he was referring to, answered literally “No, I grew up in the city but my grandparents all live on farms and they have barns.” He was confused and said “Could you not let the screen door slam?” Me: “Oh, okay!”

            There are some things that “everyone knows” that are not really obvious because offices are weird, and food in offices is especially weird. Anyway, agree with EventPlannerGal that people can be legitimately nice and have blind spots.

      4. hbc*

        I’m trying to think of anyone I would describe as both “nice” and “inconsiderate” (the word I would use to describe his pattern of behavior.) I suppose there are people who would go above and beyond when asked, but are completely oblivious to things like, “Is it really fair that I get first choice of doughnut every time?” But I can’t think of an actual example, and I know a heck of a lot of people who can charm you into thinking they’re nice but somehow the actions never line up with the words.

        1. Myrin*

          I’ve said this before – both here, other places on the internet, and IRL – that basically everybody can be described as “nice”. It’s such a catch-all expression that unless someone comes in to work every day with a scream of “Oh, it’s all you fuckers in this shithole of a place yet again!” or is extremely rude in every possible interaction you can have with them, they’ll probably be described as “nice enough”. I’ve found that most often, it simply means “is polite when I speak with them”.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            For what it’s worth, “Oh, it’s all you fuckers in this shithole of a place yet again!” made me LOL!

            1. Not a Morning Person*

              Found my entrance line for the first day back at work after quarantine ends…

        2. tetris replay*

          I’ve known people that simultaneously act sweet and behave in a completely thoughtless manner. I think that’s how the word “nice” has ended up taking on some dubious connotations in certain circles.

      5. Fikly*

        Sure, until it is explained to him that this is offensive, and he refuses to change his behavior. He is, presumably, and adult, and most of us learned about taking turns in kindergarden.

        His refusing to change his behavior, rather than the original offense, is why he is not “nice enough.”

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Where does the letter mention that it’s been explained to him and he has refused to change his behaviour?

          1. Fikly*

            Well, as I said, it’s a pretty basic concept that was covered in preschool, kindergarden, etc. I feel safe assuming that this person got some form of basic education in his life, given he is able to text.

            Given the behavior is still happening, he has refused to change. If he had some legitimate reason making him incapable of following a basic norm/rule/concept like sharing, it would almost certainly be showing up in other areas. That it is limited to food shows that he has control over his choices in behavior.

            1. ESH*

              Well, if after all this time the coworkers haven’t replied to his text, let alone USE THEIR WORDS and let him know that they’re upset that he came to work, I highly doubt that anyone has given him any indication that his behavior is problematic.

              I agree that he sounds inconsiderate, but the LW and their coworkers do as well.

      1. Cordoba*

        LW, who presumably knows him better than you do, indicates otherwise.

        Does the LW deserve the benefit of having their judgement respected regarding the personalities and motivations of their colleagues?

        1. somanyquestions*

          I don’t think she does. She feels bad expressing her frustration at his behavior and is unsure if she’s missed her chance even though she’s still upset. Where does she say what you’re suggesting she means?

          1. somanyquestions*

            And when I say I don’t think she does, I mean she doesn’t indicate otherwise. I thought she was pretty clear & didn’t get what you’re saying at all.

          2. Cordoba*

            O says “Claude isn’t a nice person”

            The letter writer, who is the person who knows Claude, says explicitly that Claude is “nice enough”. That is, LW indicates otherwise vs what O is saying.

            My point is: people should take the LW at their word and trust them (as the only person here with direct experience) to judge Claude’s motivations and overall attitude/behavior.

            1. fhqwhgads*

              “Nice enough” to me generally indicates a person is fine/ok/decent/not a raging asshole. It’s not the same thing as “nice”. I think a bunch of people are interpreting the “nice enough” as OP thinks more highly of Claude than they perhaps meant.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  I”m not saying it is. I’m saying calling him “nice enough” in general is not really praise. There seem to be 100 posts about OP calling him “nice” and proclaiming the behavior around food is decidedly not nice. And my point is, to me, OP’s original statement reads like “other than these couple of dickish habits around shared food, dude’s not usually an asshole”.

        2. Fikly*

          Well, the LW says he is nice enough, but the behavior the LW describes isn’t nice enough. So the two parts of the letter do not match.

          And many people (especially women) have been socialized to accept rude behavior as ok, and still think of the person as nice. How many times have we seen letters here describing someone as excellent as their job, while at the same time describing how they are so incapable of getting along with their coworkers that they cause huge problems in getting work done? It’s the same kind of disconnect.

    2. JohannaCabal*

      Or it could be he wasn’t taught proper social skills and etiquette growing up. I grew up with an alcoholic parent who likely also suffered from a personality disorder and was emotionally abusive. I’ve fortunately been able to reteach myself social skills and etiquette but I know others aren’t so fortunate.

      1. Ewpp*

        Not giving Claude a way out of what he does, but for general talk, this is so important to say.

      2. A*

        This…. is a bit of an extreme jump. Totally valid call out in general, but there’s nothing in the letter to indicate this is the case and it also wouldn’t change Claude’s accountability. Especially given that these are co-workers, not friends. His background doesn’t change what is or is not acceptable professionally or in the work place.

      3. Fikly*

        I grew up in an abusive household. I have a lot of social norms that are messed up because of that.

        As an adult, I take responsibility for learning them.

        Social skills range from simple to complex. Take turns going first and help clean up are not complex concepts. If he is incapable of learning that because he didn’t learn it as a child, how is he capable of learning anything he needs to do at work?

        1. ESH*

          If no one ever tells him directly what he’s done wrong and, oh I don’t know, instead freezes him out of group texts and talk about him behind his back, how is he supposed to learn?

          Using your dang words isn’t a complex skill, either, but it seems to be difficult for a lot of people.

          1. Avasarala*

            OH my goodness, it’s not his coworkers’ job to re-raise him after his hypothetically abusive upbringing.

      1. Fikly*

        The OP is disagreeing with themselves in their letter. Hence the comments.

        People do not “always” do anything.

        1. Arctic*

          Yes, people always do this. And in the real world it is possible for people to be complex. And capable of being nice and kind and also selfish.

    3. logicbutton*

      I wouldn’t read too much into “nice enough,” which LW is probably using to temper their tone. They’re just communicating that, even though all they have to say about Claude here is negative, they know he isn’t the worst person in the world and they don’t hate him or lie awake at night stewing over him.

    4. Rita S*

      Hi, I’m the Original Poster/Letter Writer….
      A lot of extrapolation and projection about my comment about Clause being “nice enough.”

      It is possible for someone to be nice but still have bad social etiquette. Personally, I like Claude and the food stuff isn’t something that keeps me up at night. It’s more of an irritation but I know he was the youngest of 3 brothers so he has issues around making sure he gets his fair share. So, I empathize with him, but other coworkers are less understanding. He’s not rude….more just clueless about social niceties and not reading others’ cues. He’s not a monster.

      Our work culture isn’t about people being shy to break the ice and take the first whatever. Claude’s behavior is a social gaffe, but not one large enough to make an issue of it. What is a big enough issue is the not cleaning up. He’s been told to help in the past, which he will do —but it is irritating to have to ask an adult to do that.


      I am that person. People tend to react or act towards me using mean microaggressions so I’ve come to accept it by ignoring it and going on with my life. I wouldn’t know if what I was doing offended someone unless someone told me that behavior is unacceptable. I would say that in his next review or better yet, his next 1X1, his boss needs to tell him he needs to be more “socially” aware. This is social awkwardness. And his boss should probably have some ideas on how Claude can mend fences because Claude might not know how to do that. Or else tell Claude the entire office is angry (p.o.’d) with you and in doing so, may give Claude the hint that it is time to leave town(quit).

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I apologize if I sound cavalier, but in very early March, organizations were still developing their responses to COVID. I can’t remember with precision, but I think I first heard about social distancing, asymptomatic carriers, and the higher infectiousness rate around March 6-7.

    Is it possible that he did not fully understand how COVID spreads, or that he mistook his child and wife’s symptoms as being a cold/flu? I know that today, looking back on early March, I would feel the same frustration as OP. But depending on the timing of all of this, is it possible that there was a “good faith ignorance” window of time in which the public did not have clear guidance on COVID procedures?

    I agree with Alison’s course of action. I just worry that there may be an attribution of recklessness or malice that may be more intense because of everything that has happened since Claude was sent home.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Social distancing was talked about way earlier than March. I know because I was obsessively reading all the developments about this virus, and I made the decision to no longer leave my apartment in mid-February. Plus, common sense says that if everyone in your house is ill, you stay the hell home, especially when there’s a new virus out there that has very little information about how it’s transmitted.

      1. Anonapots*

        I think if you were following closely, then sure, you heard of social distancing. But it hadn’t really spread to greater public awareness until early March.

      2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

        True, but it’s also worth noting that obsessively reading developments about the virus and deciding to put yourself on lockdown in February puts you on the far end of the bell curve for early responses, at least in the context of the US.

        If this guy is more in the middle of the pack, or on the trailing end of the bell curve in terms of his personal level of concern, it’s very possible that by early March he still did not feel personally impacted.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yes — we live near Chicago and it was the week of March 9 that things really started feeling urgent. Before that there was *certainly* direction to stay home if you had any symptoms, or had been in contact with anyone who did, so he was a bit reckless to be sure. But I don’t think the general public started feeling like they needed to distance more until that week, when a few different celebrities said they were sick and big events started getting canceled.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep. I don’t live in Chicago, but I was there for an event that weekend, and there was some nervous joking about it, but the event still happened and (knock on wood) it doesn’t seem that anyone got sick from it beyond regular colds and flu. By the next weekend the whole world was cancelled.

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            I’m a healthcare worker in Chicago and we were paying real close attention to this before that point. His wife at least should have had some grave misgivings about him going to the office.

          3. Going Anon*

            Same in NYC. We knew we definitely had a looming problem the week before that, but my company went WFH 3/12. I was still pretty much in the “this is paranoid nonsense” camp around the last week of February/first day or two of March. I work in a back office role for TV, and 3/11 was the day we saw ratings go through the roof as the country started to shut down.

            1. Going Anon*

              I want to clarify that I had a rapid change of heart, I was wrong, this is deeply serious, and I am doing my part (staying inside always, wearing a mask when I go out very sporadically for groceries, etc). My husband is a doctor so he is on the front lines of this so I get a very personal look at how things are evolving.

              1. Annony*

                I agree. When I first heard that cities were considering things like closing down public transportation I thought it was absurd. I think the problem is that in the effort to keep people from panicking, we were not really told important details. We were told most people would experience “mild to moderate symptoms” but not that moderate symptoms meant the worst flu of your life. Depending on where the LW is I can definitely see how the coworker may have thought that there was little to no chance his family had COVID-19 at that point. There is a big difference between being in NYC in early March and being in Nebraska. Going to work was not ok, but it may have been more ignorance than indifference to his coworkers health.

          4. CupcakeCounter*

            I’m on the other side of the big lake and we didn’t have our first case in my county until around March 12-13. Until then we’d heard about it but the cases were clustered around the Detroit area.

          5. Doc in a Box*

            Yes, I think it depends very much how early in “early March” we are talking. Based on the reference to the weekend, I’m guessing this was the weekend of March 7-8, not March 14-15. At that time, there were just a scattered handful of cases nationally, outside the cluster in Washington State and the cruise ship clusters.

            Living in this perpetual state of home quarantine, it’s easy to forget how rapidly things were changing in early March, as we got a better sense of transmission dynamics and how long this virus lasts on surfaces. I mean, on March 5, Bill de Blasio announced that people should continue riding the subway in NYC; 3 days later, NYC issued new commuter guidelines to stay off public transit if possible. It wasn’t really until around March 11 or so that the rest of the country started to pay attention. My own clinics didn’t announce telehealth options until March 16, and I wasn’t on-boarded/trained on our video visit platform until March 31 (1000s of docs/PAs/NPs signed up at once and they were unprepared for the onslaught).

            Depending on where OP and Claude are located, it’s very possible that Claude and his health-care -worker wife, like literal hundreds of millions of Americans, were legitimately underwhelmed by the possibility of covid in early March. Claude sounds a bit clueless at the best of times, but holding a grudge against him and freezing him out of group chats is petty.

            1. Old and Don’t Care*

              I, along with 20,000 other people, was planning to run a half marathon in NYC on March 15. As late as March 6 the race directors were communicating that the race would still go on. They finally cancelled it on March 10, the Tuesday before a Sunday race (that thousands of people were coming in from out of town for).

        2. Nita*

          That’s possible. Here in NYC we went from two cases to over 1,000 in two weeks. It didn’t really take a big leap of logic to realize that once you have two-three community transmission cases, you’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. However, there were also many people who hadn’t been following this closely, didn’t realize how sneaky this virus is, and thought “two cases, big deal, what are the chances I’ll come in contact with that?” And if they got cold-like symptoms, they probably wouldn’t jump to concluding they might be dangerous to their coworkers.

          1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

            Right. And I also don’t think that the full implications of the high prevalence of asymptomatic carriers really sank in for a lot of people at first. Like, it read more as “if you get the ‘rona you might not even get sick at all, therefore it’s less dangerous” versus the reality of “you could not know you’re contagious and still pass it along.”

          2. boo bot*

            Yes. I’m in NYC too, and I think its hard in hindsight to remember exactly how fast the numbers went up (maybe especially if you’re outside the area). Today, we have over 140,000 cases, but almost exactly a month ago, on March 8 we had under 500 cases, in and around a city of 10 million people.

            It’s really hard for many of us to fathom exponential growth, especially when we haven’t seen it happened yet. And in the meantime, there were a lot of mixed signals coming from various federal, state, and local authorities.

            I think it’s fair to be upset at Claude over this, but I think it’s a good idea to extend compassion, and try to let it go. It may feel like Claude is the one who brought the chaos of this virus into your lives, but he really isn’t – it’s a pandemic; it’s everywhere.

            1. JM60*

              A major problem with managing a pandemic is that proper actions taken early in the pandemic seem excessive (to the average person), while those same actions seem too minor in retrospect when the pandemic is over. The best time to take action is early in the pandemic, when you don’t see people getting sick.

            2. Anancy*

              “ It may feel like Claude is the one who brought the chaos of this virus into your lives, but he really isn’t – it’s a pandemic; it’s everywhere.”

              I think this is a really key insight.

          3. Sparrow*

            Yeah, my sister came down with a fever the weekend of the 14th, and her husband actually contemplated going to work that Monday, mostly because they’re in a region that wasn’t hard hit and it didn’t feel like a pressing issue (he was convinced to stay home, thank goodness, and my sister ended up testing negative, but she also tested negative for everything else and her doctor strongly suspected the covid test was a false negative.) And I think it would’ve taken awhile longer for the rest of my family in the same area to take it seriously if my sister hadn’t gotten sick and pressed the issue. They seemed to think I was being overly paranoid up until that point (I’m in Chicago, so while I didn’t start my own lockdown until the 12th, I was aware, prepping, and starting to take precautions by early March.)

        3. Myrin*

          Yeah, my birthday is on March 5 and the all-around feeling of alarm that is around now certainly wasn’t there then. I was on vacation that week and heard through my coworkers that people were starting to get jittery during that time but it definitely really only hit the week after that (I just looked it up and my coworker sent a picture of our drugstore’s empty toilet paper shelf to our groupchat on March 13; when I re-filled it on March 11 people had definitely only bought the normal amount so far and you can pretty closely track the German development by that).

          1. Bee*

            I went to a birthday party at a bar and then a movie in NYC on March 7th, and we all went in for hugs and then started joking about “whoops, shouldn’t have done that,” but there was no real sense of danger. But by March 13th, I decided not to go to a movie that I’d bought tickets for two weeks earlier. My feelings about it changed rapidly!

        4. Princesa Zelda*

          Here in Arizona, we only had two cases in the first week of March, both from traveling to China — I still went to a Large Crowded Event, but with hand sanitizer and my own water, and refused handshakes; I still went to a vision appointment; my boss still went on a cruise. Second week of March, we had a dozen cases, everything from St Patrick’s Day to Spring Training was cancelled, the State Department was issuing an advisory not to get on cruises, and both my jobs shut down. The vision place overnighted my new glasses because they closed their office.

          But if Claude is from, say, Seattle, or France, he doesn’t have this excuse – at the beginning of March, they were already in disaster mode. It’s all context-dependant.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I understand that perspective. I think at bottom, I’m cautioning against someone’s non-prudent behavior with the benefit of hindsight.

        I’m in California, and my employer was incredibly aggressive about sending us all home and moving to remote work way before local governments or the state issued their shelter in place orders. For my employer, “sensitive populations” were first instructed to work remotely on March 9 (I remember because it affected me personally). The CDC issued its social distancing guidance to health workers and individuals who had traveled to China in early February, but the first time it began to recommend widespread social distancing to the public was at the end of that month.

        Again, I don’t think what he did was wise, justifiable, or thoughtful. But I do think there’s a world in which he is not actively malicious. I would approach a confrontation conversation from the perspective that he was thoughtless or not conscientious, as opposed to assuming he intentionally acted in bad faith. Right now OP’s frustration seems to be ratcheting up over time, and I think it’s important not to create our own narratives about why Claude acted as he did.

        1. BananaPants*

          I work for a global company with a large presence in China, so we’ve been following the coronavirus situation since January and were certainly aware of what our colleagues in Asia (especially China) were going through with lockdowns and restrictions.

          Until late February, the only applicable company policy for US-based employees was a 14 day exclusion from the office for employees returning from a trip to China. It wasn’t until the first full week in March that US-based employees had a “stay home” policy for employees with confirmed covid-19. By March 9th that expanded to include employees who had a household member or close contact with confirmed covid-19. There was NO workplace exclusion required for employees with family members/close contacts having flu-like symptoms (we were still in flu season). Things happened VERY fast over the course of just a few days – by March 16th we were required to work from home if our work responsibilities allowed us to do so.

          I don’t understand the degree of agonizing that the coworkers seem to be doing over Claude coming to work when his wife and kid had possible covid-19 symptoms in early March. It was a month ago and apparently no one caught whatever it was – and it may not have been coronavirus!). It may have been thoughtless, but I don’t think he was evil for coming to work.

      4. Person from the Resume*

        Where are you?

        I live in New Orleans which is getting grief for not cancelling Mardi Gras which took place on February 25th and that’s BS. Even in late February there were only a few spots in the US which had COVID-19 cases, the government was still blaming overseas travelers from certain countries for the spread. People could still travel, fly, get on cruise ships.

        No large gatherings were being cancelled. COVID-19 tests were not made available if you hadn’t been to certain countries. Now we know the government did a shit job of preparing for a pandemic and definitely downplayed the risk, but we didn’t know that then.

        1. A*

          Couldn’t disagree more (although I agree that no one individual should be held responsible as this was a mass failure by multiple administrations on the state and federal levels). By the time Mardi Gras came around this was already well known in the medical, scientific, and business communities. I’m in a global business position and was aware from the beginning of the impact in Wuhan. Those aware of how severe it was, and the fact that in this day and age with travel being what it is that there is no true isolation scenario, made great efforts to broadcast the information and make recommendations.

          Ultimately Mardi Gras moved forward because there wasn’t a federal recommendation in place. However that does not negate the multitudes of recommendations made by international organizations. There are plenty of examples of large annual gatherings at the end of February that were cancelled in the effort of being cautious. Nola does not exist in a vacuum.

          1. Avasarala*

            Yes, those of us in Asia were screaming “Please take this seriously!!” and many countries in North America and Europe refused to listen until mid-March. We all could have known about this sooner if we had listened and thought.

    2. Phillip*

      I’m with you and adding that he might have been in denial. Which doesn’t make it ok but it does fall in line with the sorts of wrong things people do at times like this. I don’t really think the breakroom shenanigans have much to do with it.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, the symptoms WERE far more likely to just be a cold or URI, if the kid got sent home on Friday in early March and was feeling better after just the weekend.

      1. fposte*

        I think this is a really good point that needs more consideration. The OP clearly has some general issues with Claude, which is why his other flaws are getting described, and it’s understandable that that would make her especially irritated with this. He sounds highly irritating, that’s for sure.

        But it also sounds like he didn’t have C-19 or spread it, and he didn’t act outside of guidelines from his workplace, state, or country at the time. That’s how some people are, and that’s why guidelines get made–to make sure that people don’t just rely on their own habits and feelings in making safety choices. I’m also little concerned that there seems to be an ongoing conversation about Claude among his co-workers, which isn’t a good thing to perpetuate–there’s nothing he can even be blamed for, so it just seems like a slam book because people are irritable. Again understandable, but don’t make that about a co-worker. And maybe in future the office will be quicker to articulate its policies about staying home.

        1. JM60*

          “he didn’t act outside of guidelines from his workplace, state, or country at the time”

          I’m seeing a lot of passing the buck with regard to this pandemic. Many companies used “we haven’t been told to close down” as an excuse to stay open. A lot of local and state governments were/are waiting for the federal government to recommend/advise a shutdown before taking serious action. Too many people were/are unwilling to take responsibility and action, and passed it off to a central authority that was largely minimizing the threat.

          I’m not that sympathetic to him. The data was out there at that time, and the medical community clearly announced what symptoms to look out for. He is at least partly responsible for jeopardizing the health of his coworkers.

          1. fposte*

            In my area the data wasn’t enough one day in March and then suddenly it was, and we don’t know which dates and where are relevant for Claude. But, more importantly, as far as we know he *didn’t* jeopardize the health of his co-workers. They want to punish him as if somebody got harmed when nobody got harmed, because they don’t like him.

            1. JM60*

              He did jeopardize the health of his co-workers, even if you can find out after the fact that we wasn’t carrying an infectious disease. Whether or not you jeopardize something isn’t determine after the fact by the outcome, but rather from the risk you took beforehand based on the available data. If you pull the trigger in Russian roulette, you’re jeopardizing your life regardless of whether or not there was a bullet in the chamber. It’s the fact that there may have been a bullet in the chamber that means you jeopardized you life.

              The available data in early March was that SARS_CoV-2 could spread asymptomatically during an incubation period up to 2 weeks, and that there were confirmed cases in just about every region of the world. If you combine the long incubation period, plus the fact that people without a known contact to someone who traveled to China don’t usually get tested until they’re hospitalized (at least in the US, where testing is sparse), and people don’t get hospitalized until they’ve had symptoms for a week or two, you can conclude that a single confirmed COVID-19 case with no known contact with someone who traveled to China means the disease has probably been spreading locally for weeks. I guess my point is, the widely available data in early March was enough to suggest that the presence of symptoms means you should self-isolate if there are known cases at all in your region (and almost all regions had at least some known cases).

      2. BananaPants*

        I know three healthcare workers with known potential exposures who developed covid symptoms in March. Their occupational health departments required them to isolate and be tested first for flu and then for coronavirus – two of them had to be tested more than once. All three were fortunately negative for covid-19; it was just a nasty upper respiratory bug that hit at a very inconvenient time.

        People seem to be holding Claude to an unreasonable standard. Kids get colds and bounce back fast. Frankly, up until about a month ago I wouldn’t have worried about one of my kids spiking a brief temp, coughing for a few days, and then feeling better by the end of the weekend. Staying home for 14 days and burning through my PTO because of that? Yeah, no, that wouldn’t have happened unless my employer had a policy requiring it at the time.

    4. Jostling*

      I second this. It really depends on your region, but in my state we didn’t receive SIP recommendations until mid-March and even then SIP wasn’t actually ordered until late March. I respect the LW’s frustration, but this does sound like an innocent case of not putting the pieces together, especially because this year’s cold/flu had a lot of symptomatic overlap with COVID-19 (at least in my area and assuming we don’t get into the “it was here way earlier than we thought” theories). I think the fact that the company responded quickly is great, but maybe cut Claude some slack? Everyone is scared, confused, and frustrated right now, and icing out a coworker for a perceived public health violation that you can’t verify is probably not helping your coworkers or yourself.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Agreed. It is still scary and frustrating for sure, but he could easily have been part of the many, many people that thought this wasn’t a big deal a month ago. Honestly, I’m not sure if my work would have sent him home if I reported that his kid was sick with a cough and a fever at that point in time.

    5. Jimming*

      I agree.

      I also think OP should reach out soon and clear the air. It seems like she’s holding on to anger directed at him and saying something might help her let go of that now.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I don’t – this happened weeks ago. If OP was going to say something about it, it should have been when it first happened.

      2. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. I give him the minor benefit of the doubt about instructions (there still are areas that are not under stay at home orders, wearing a mask is a suggestion…) and cause of illness (and who knows, maybe his wife didn’t think they were the right symptoms – it IS allergy season). At this point if no one else has gotten sick, then clear the air or you’ll never be able to move on. If he’s routinely clueless, that is something his manager should address.

        It is also very hard to get tested. I think this is where lack of testing ability is hurting people – had they been able to get a rapid test (or any test at all), then he could have confirmed they just had bronchitis or allergies.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          (One quibble: I don’t know any seasonal allergies that cause a fever like his wife had. Flu & bronchitis yes.)

    6. Alton*

      I agree. It was reckless, but not particularly unusual considering the delayed reaction in the US (assuming that’s where the LW is from). My state was just beginning to get some cases in early March, and I found that guidance about what to do if you felt under the weather was severely lacking.

    7. Malarkey01*

      I agree with this March 9-12 I was on a business trip to DC, and that’s really when I noticed the change (the 9th was business as usual, the 12th was not). None of the companies I was working with were asking people to stay home if family members were sick in early March. If YOU were sick or had traveled yes, but 4 weeks ago most government officials and companies weren’t quarantining families. It’s hard to think back when attitudes have shifted so much.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup, this. I went out to a (practically empty) bar in DC on the afternoon of March 14th and to a (really empty) restaurant on March 15th. On both of those dates, social distancing was recommended so we simply left plenty of space between us and other patrons. I was supposed to perform at a large event space on the 13th and it wasn’t cancelled until the afternoon of the 12th. My partner works for the federal government and wasn’t even planning on teleworking until someone on a nearby floor got diagnosed on the 16th. He was definitely planning to keep working in his office in early March.

        Basically, while in hindsight Claude’s actions were pretty bad, I can see so many reasons why he, or someone else, would have thought he was doing the right thing by sleeping in another room. The company did the right thing and sent him home.

      2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

        Yup. I’m in that area and that’s right around the point when we were starting to sit up and take notice here.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Agreed. The last day I was in the office in the DC metro area was 03/13. We had a planned two-day rolling office shutdown of various sites by IT to test our infrastructure planned to start the following Monday, 03/15. Ours was the first on the list.

          Saturday afternoon, we were informed via our emergency messaging system that no one was to come back into any of our office locations without permission (03/14).

          The situation shifted very rapidly in the region; fortunately my company shifted rapidly with it. We’d been ramping up toward this with leadership telling people who were sick to stay home regardless of who’d traveled where, or if they had sick family members.

          More importantly, they also told people who felt unsafe or scared to be in the office to work from home. The response for travel as far back as early February was the same – if you do not feel comfortable or safe traveling, don’t do it.

          The more I read on AAM and other areas on the web, the more I’m discovering this was not a widespread response…for which I’m grateful.

      3. nn*

        This – in early March, my partner started feeling sick at work, went home, and texted me he had a fever. I was at work and asked my manager what to do – we had just started doing shifts with half the staff doing remote work and half in the office, but that meant I was the only person doing specific tasks that had to be performed on-site. At that point, we were obviously already handwashing like crazy, but only had rules in place to stay home if you were sick with anything, or been near or lived with anyone with a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis. We couldn’t find anything on household members being sick.

        My manager made the call that I was ok to work the rest of the day but that I shouldn’t return afterwards until he was able to get tested. So my partner went to urgent care that day, where they did take his temperature and vitals, but also told him frankly that they had a CDC protocol with 5 or so symptoms that all needed to be checked off before they could test him, and he didn’t check all the boxes. So a second call was made that it would be ok for me to continue work for the week.

        At noon the next day, we were all told to prepare or pack whatever we could for remote work, and by the next week, we had official shelter-in-place for our region. It was quick!

    8. Shhhh*

      Yeah, I flew on March 7. I was on vacation the week before and over that week (Feb 29-March 7) it was definitely becoming a dire situation, but cases still weren’t being reported in many states. I live in PA and I think the first case was reported on March 5 or 6.

      I had a connecting flight in Newark and there were still only a handful of people wearing masks and while there was probably fewer fliers than usual, Newark was still crowded.

      The degree to which the situation evolved between March 7 (my flight) and March 11 (when my employer went fully remote) was dramatic. I don’t think that I would have gone to work if I had had symptoms on the 9th or 10th, but my sick leave doesn’t have official limits on it besides guidance on when to look into longer-term leave/FMLA and isn’t part of my vacation time, so it’s easier to make that choice.

      So yeah. Claude made a bad and stupid choice. But the first two weeks of March went pretty much from 0 to 5000 in most of the country. But I agree that hindsight is probably intensifying the team’s anger.

      (As a side note…I also suspect the reasons that the LW describes their team as “family-like” is intensifying their anger, too…)

    9. Anon Anon*

      I tend to think it’s good faith ignorance. I mean in early March I figured this would all blow over quickly. And my employer just put something out around that time letting everyone know that they should stay home sick. I feel like things rapidly changed from the beginning of March to mid-to-late March. I also think that many people viewed COVID-19 as just like the flu, and that it wasn’t a big deal.

    10. CL Cox*

      His wife works in healthcare. They certainly knew about COVID-19 and precautions long before the general public did. As early as mid-February, the CDC was telling healthcare workers about quarantining in order to prevent the spread to family and community. by at least a month before that, they were sharing the most common symptoms (the first two of which were fever and cough). It was irresponsible of both the co-worker and his wife to allow him to go to work without at least some precautions.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        This right here. I’m ‘non-essential personnel’ (non-patient care) at a hospital but had been using sanitizing wipes to clean our office’s door handles and other high-touch surfaces daily for a couple weeks at that point, as we knew our cleaning staff doesn’t do much in the office beyond empty the trash.

      2. doreen*

        I am not defending Claude at all – but I wonder if all people who can be described as healthcare workers were aware of precautions long before the general public. I’m sure those who work in doctor’s offices and facilities were – but I’m not so sure about home health aides

      3. Malarkey01*

        My sister in law and father in law are doctors in Texas (one in a hospital in Austin, one running a clinic in S Antonio), when we called them on the 14th to ask if they had enough masks, etc they scoffed at us and told us we were overreacting. We were FLOORED and were like are you not watching the news, what do you mean you’re low risk. My FIL is 78 and my husband yelled at his sister that their dad had a significant chance of death.

        8 days later their tones had changed… just to add that healthcare providers weren’t all on the same page either.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Many healthcare providers weren’t concerned and absolutely flippant about COVID19 for a long time, like up until pretty recently.

        A family member’s healthcare facility actually decided 14 days “seemed too long” and tried to cut it to 7 days. Yeah…don’t let being in healthcare fool you for a single minute.

    11. Dahlia*

      I was in the hospital January 28th to February 3rd and I was beginning to hear about it then.

    12. Mary*

      Yeah, things moved so quickly that I think it’s very hard to say that everyone knew you were supposed to stay at home if someone else in the household had symptoms that early. My partner had a bad cough in early March. At the time, the UK policy was all focused on having a temperature. She felt rotten and exhausted, so she stayed at home, but back then there was nothing saying that I could take time of work or that this would be considered a valid reason for our daughter to be off school. She was about better when the advice to stay at home if you had a cough OR a temperature came out, and completely better by a week later when schools shut and other members of the household were told to stay at home if someone had a cough or temperature. We still have no idea if that illness was COVID-19 or a totally unrelated virus: in theory it’s before the illness was widespread in the U.K., but there are other reports that it may have been circulating before the “official” time.

      Different places had instructions going out at different times, of course, but unless your area was wildly on the ball and there were really definitive and clear instructions about self-isolating going out *very* early, I think it’s hard to say that everyone should have known to self-isolate by early March.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        UK here too, and I would say the same thing. I can remember checking the NHS website after starting to come down with what I still think was a regular old cold on March 10th, just to be sure, and at the time it was saying I didn’t need to do anything as I hadn’t got a fever or cough and I also hadn’t been to any of the specific countries mentioned at the time (or out of the country at all) or knowingly in contact with a confirmed case. By the time they said about staying home if you had any cold or flu symptoms, I was pretty much over it. I don’t think at that point they were advising the whole household to self isolate.

        My family had got together for my two year old nephew’s birthday party on March 7th, and I know my cousin said at one point he thought he might be asked to work at home soon, but nobody had been concerned enough at the time to consider staying home or cancelling the party. If it had been planned for the following week, possibly it wouldn’t have gone ahead.

        Ah yes, the reports that it may have been circulating earlier…half my coworkers seem to be claiming to have had it in January.

    13. leapingLemur*

      The OP said “Deeply unsettled, Jim told our director about Claude’s home situation, and Claude was instructed to leave immediately and stay home for 14 days. By coincidence, later that day, a company-wide directive instructed all employees to work from home until further notice.”

      It sounds like it might have been fairly well known by a number of people by that point. Jim and whoever is in charge of the company were already quite concerned.

    14. AKchic*

      That’s my thought too.

      The US gov’t was really… blasé about the whole thing for quite a while. It was a state by state response, and even that has been hit and miss.

      Add in a bad cold/flu season and then seasonal allergies during this time of year, plus the knowledge that the spouse is in health care and the child(ren) get sick a lot anyway and any rational adult would assume that their family is getting the typical crud rather than a mystery plague that they swore was only being caught by people who were international travelers (in the early days).

    15. gsa*

      I agree.

      Does everyone know the exact timeline when these warnings executive orders came out for the State in which you live and/or work.

      I had to look mine up. Our “Stay at Home” was signed on March 27.

      I haven’t read the 32 other comments.

      I’ll post it in a separate link so this comment will post now and Alison can moderate the other.


    16. Alex*

      Agree with this–in early March, my company was certainly not telling my coworkers to stay home if they had a “maybe I was exposed to COVID19?” moment. I know, because my coworker was exposed and they told him to still come in. A week later, though, they decided to let everyone work from home if they wanted, and a week after THAT, we were no longer allowed in the office. This evolved quickly for many people and it’s hard now to remember when we were all unsure about how seriously to take this.

      Unless there had been some clear guidelines that Claude violated, I wouldn’t consider this a major act of malice.

    17. Ace in the Hole*

      I agree on all points. This depends a lot on location of course… but in my area, even professionals responsible for coming up with response plans couldn’t get clear, consistent information in the first week of March. I absolutely wouldn’t expect the average person on the street to have a clue.

      Was it more reckless/cavalier than coming to work when your family has the ordinary flu? Yeah, sure. Was it grossly, unforgivably negligent? In my opinion, no. Not at all – unless your organization and/or public health officials were already giving clear consistent instructions to self-isolate if anyone in the household was sick. If you know for a fact that he was getting such guidance and chose to come in anyways, that’s another story.

    18. Purple*

      People came into my work with sick family, or even with colds themselves last month. Why? Because we knew we were likely going to be shut down soon and my manager was applying incredible amounts of “plausibly deniable” pressure to hit certain goals before that occurred.

      Now, these people could have said they were sick and stayed home. They suck for not saying anything. And I’m sure the director would have sent them home if she found out.

      But do I blame them entirely? No. I blame my boss for creating an environment where workers feel uncomfortable speaking up.

    19. NaoNao*

      Agreed. I’m in Denver and the weekend of March 08, a huge (15k people) event was held as planned, with some jokes about risking the virus here and there. There was tons of coughing in the audience. And for what it’s worth, people are blithely ignoring social distancing here and tons of office were open and operating WELL into the recommended work from home until it became “we order you to stay home”.

      I was in a really awkward position at work as I was relatively new to the office and the CEO is known for being anti WFH (and worked in the office past the “recommend you work from home” notices, up until formal, legal shutdown). I had a genuine cold in late February and my boss pulled me aside and asked if I had a fever (I didn’t) and asked me to work from an empty closed office/from home until it passed, and I recall being a little put out by that, but complied. If Claude felt he couldn’t WFH or use leave for some reason, and a family member had 1-2 slight symptoms **very early on** in this process, I can somewhat understand why he chose to do that.

    20. Rita S*

      Hi, I’m the Original Poster/Letter Writer….
      The monday in question was March 16th and we are in the San Francisco area. And that same afternoon was when the shelter-in-place/work from home mandate came down.

      Claude was aware of the symptoms, and his WIFE certainly knew as she is a health care worker. So, yes, it’s possible that it didn’t occur to him that it was possibly C19.

      People have commented that the office shenanigans re: donuts, etc. are beside the point. I beg to differ….it’s the same lack of social awareness and consideration of others. With the knowledge of the highly contagious nature of C19, this represented the epitome of Claude’s obliviousness to anyone other than himself.

      It’s funny, because I do like Claude generally. We share many interests and have some good talks, but this incident was too much because of the lack of concern for the health and wellness of the office.

      I agree that the outside text group is not right, which is why I am “asking a manager.” While I”m no longer pissed at Claude, I felt that it’s important for Claude to know how everyone was feeling and give him a chance to maybe explain or apologize to the group.
      There is no handwringing about this…it’s mostly that

      1. Jimming*

        Yeah, okay he should have known better by then. I hope the advice Alison gave helps and you figure out a way to work with him moving forward!

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        Ah okay, knowing that date puts it in a bit more context and yes, if it was as late as the 16th then yes I might have expected him to have a bit more awareness. On first reading of the letter I thought you were referring to the previous week when guidance in a lot of places around the world was a lot less clear. I am in the UK and certainly by the 16th we had been asked to self isolate if a member of the household was showing symptoms, but not the week earlier.

  4. Miss May*

    Something similar happened to my mother. She works at a health care facility, and a nurse whose family member tested positive still came into work (the hospital knew about it, and said she “may” wear a mask, she did not). It wasn’t revealed who the nurse was until she tested positive for C-19 herself. She’d been working with docs and patients for DAYS at that point.

    I’m just so disappointed in everyone involved. The rest of the staff pushed back asking why the nurse wasn’t quarantined with her family, but I guess management didn’t care? Ugh.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Disgusting. Anyone who gets sick because of her should send her their medical bills if they end up hospitalized. This is completely negligent.

        1. CL Cox*

          No, it’s not, she got it form a family member, not at work. Anyone after that that got it could make a strong case that it was work-related though, which the nursing home administration should have realized.

          1. Mary*

            If she was following her employer’s advice and they were aware of the situation, I think you’d have a very tough time making her individually liable.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Two questions:

    What is/was your company’s paid sick leave policy, if there is one, prior to COVID-19?

    What was the work from home policy prior to COVID-19?

    Just curious.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      That’s a very good point. If there’s no paid sick leave, or there’s no work from home, then his options were pretty simple: come into work, or don’t and use up limited vacation time/go without pay if there is no vacation time.

      When you don’t enable people to stay home when sick or exposed to illness, then they don’t. This should not be a surprise. The only reason everyone’s up in arms is because of the circumstances. Otherwise, this was quite literally, business as usual. Don’t like it? Change the environment.

    2. Rita S*

      Hi, I’m the Original Poster/Letter Writer….
      We have a good sick leave policy…accumulates at 8 hours per month.
      The Monday that he showed up was the day that the WFH mandate was put in place.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        12 days per year is good for the US, but not for much of the rest of the world.
        I can see the math: 12 days Vaca vs a 14-day quarantine period.
        My office is 5 days/year + vacation.

  6. brightstar*

    Does the OP know whether or not the director or HR said anything to Claude? It’s possible that he was spoken to and the OP just isn’t aware of that fact.

    1. CL Cox*

      OP said they spoke to a manager and that Claude was sent home immediately after that, so it’s pretty doubtful that HR was aware of it until then.

    1. Hedgehug*

      That’s unnecessarily harsh. A lot of people are retroactively scared, it’s a normal feeling during this time. OP sounds like they are attempting to move forward and put an end to the freezing out.

  7. MMD*

    Let it go. No one got sick. Kids get sick all the time and this was a new situation. He may be annoying but everyone is annoying in some way. I think your anger over this is tempered by the fact you don’t like him in the first place. Taking the first donut is not a high crime. Freezing him out fosters bad will and negativity at work. It’s been weeks. Letting it fester will only cause you more unrest. If my colleagues and I missed work every time a kid is sick there would be no health care workers to treat patients.

    1. CL Cox*

      No one got sick that OP knows of. That’s an important distinction. Since at least 50% of those infected can be asymptomatic, no one can know at this point whether or not OP or another co-worker passed it to anyone for whom it could be serioous or even fatal. It is not merely an annoyance, it is a serious, legitimate concern.

      1. Bee*

        That’s not the correct rate – it’s more like 10% of infections are asymptomatic. That 50% rate that you see in, for example, Iceland’s early testing reflects *presymptomatic* cases. They started testing so quickly that most people were still in the incubation phase. This proves that a lot of people can transmit it while feeling perfectly healthy, but most of those people did eventually feel sick. In this case, if it’s been four weeks and no one got sick, they weren’t infected. (It was still reckless! Not defending his behavior!)

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          That’s not the correct rate – it’s more like 10% of infections are asymptomatic. That 50% rate that you see in, for example, Iceland’s early testing reflects *presymptomatic* cases.

          Dr. Fauci just said that this isn’t entirely accurate either. They’re guesstimating 20-50% of people who have the coronavirus are asymptomatic, not just presymptomatic, but there’s still not enough data to say with certainty.

        1. B*

          Cool! Doesn’t invalidate others comments. (for the record, I agree with you – I just think this comment is condescending. You working in the field wold be mildly beneficial context added to your comment, but as a response to anothers? Nope.)

          1. MMD*

            I work with it every work day. I get briefed on it seven days a week multiple times a day. With actual hard numbers. Coming up with random numbers can create more panic than is necessary.

    2. Rita S*

      Hi, I’m the Original Poster/Letter Writer….
      The kid being sick was not the issue. It was his wife ‘s fever and dry cough that was alarming. And I would say that our manager’s directing him to go home immediately speaks to the fact that none of us were overreacting.

      I think you’re reading a lot into my motivations. Perhaps that fact that I wrote the post in the first place is because I want to reinstate harmony in our family-type work place??

      1. Rita K*

        The fact that you keep referring to your workplace as “family-type” is deeply worrying. That indicates a very dysfunctional and inappropriate workplace, or an extremely unprofessional view of work. Or both.

        Your priorities are seriously out of whack if your motivation here is to “reinstate harmony in our family-type workplace”.

        1. Avasarala*

          This is unnecessarily aggressive and derailing. Just because someone uses “family-type” to describe the level of warmth and goodwill in their office doesn’t mean it necessarily has all the other dysfunctional elements we sometimes see when “family-type” is used as an excuse for abuse.

          Let’s be kinder to letter writers, please.

    3. Rita S*

      I’m the original poster/letter writer….

      You are speaking without factual knowledge. If you reread my post, it’s not that Claude’s kid had a fever that was so alarming. It was his ADULT wife — who is a healthcare worker — having a fever and dry cough all weekend and the fact that he MIGHT have been a carrier of C19. This is how the virus spreads! My goodness, this wasn’t about a cold and by early March it was all over the place that the tell-tale symptoms were fever and dry cough!

      And not to be smug, but his wife was in fact told to self quarantine for 14 days because she exhibited C19 symptoms. There was no testing available so we won’t know for some time.

  8. CmdrShepard4ever*

    While I agree the Claude should have stayed home Monday the situation might not be so clear cut as presented in the letter. The company sent him home for sick for 14 days with or without pay or he was sent to WFH? Had the company previously settled on and communicated a sick policy for people who might have Covid-19 like symptoms recommending them to stay home, what kind of PTO/vac/sick time does the company generally offer? I think early March is right around the time when people/companies were finally starting to become aware and/or take things very seriously. My company did not issue the WFH directive until third week of March.

    This might be nitpicky, but Claude did not show up to work with Covid-19 symptoms as the title implies, but rather he should up to work after being around someone with potential Covid-19 symptoms, not even confirmed Covid-19 symptoms.

      1. MMD*

        Yes the headline implies he came to work with cough fever and shortness of breath. The Covid triad. I don’t see evidence of this in the letter.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I got the headline wrong and have changed it. But we don’t have a way to say whether his family had Covid or not, given the widespread shortage of testing in the US (most people here who have it haven’t even been tested).

        1. MMD*

          True. Most cases will be mild and self resolve. In some it severely attacks the lungs involving widespread infiltrates which leads to SARS.

          1. Bailey*

            Let’s be careful with misinformation — SARS is not the result of severe COVID-19. SARS is a different strain of coronavirus, and appeared in an outbreak in 2003 but has largely been eradicated since then. Severe COVID-19 leads to pneumonia.

            1. No bees on Typhon*

              COVID is technically a kind of severe acute respiratory syndrome (a generic term for a group of illnesses with similar symptoms), but colloquially yes, they are different.

              The 2002-3 coronavirus was called SARS-CoV and the disease it caused was called SARS
              The current coronavirus is called SARS-CoV2 and the disease it causes is called COVID-19

  9. MusicWithRocksIn*

    My boss had a really terrible cough right when we were first hearing about it hitting Seattle. It wasn’t officially in our area yet, but there was already speculation it could be much further spread than we thought. He not only came and went from the office a ton, but went to visit a ton of customers in that time. I really wish someone at our company had told him to take himself home in that time.

  10. Delta Delta*

    It might be worth asking the manager/owner/boss individually if they’ve heard from Claude. I can’t really tell from the letter if OP knows if someone higher up the chain has heard from him.

    I think Claude’s coming to work when potentially exposed was not cool. And while he may not have been able to play dumb about symptoms, I do also think it’s true that even in early-mid March there were people who didn’t fully grasp the seriousness of the illness. (eg I was supposed to go to a conference on March 11, which didn’t get cancelled until the morning of March 10, and the organizers seemed very on the fence about cancelling) I also think that everyone not responding to him after he’d been out for 2 weeks is also not cool. He might feel frozen out, which does not work well for continuing healthy working relationships.

    1. SweetestCin*

      Very much so. We had youth league playoff games that were canceled, literally, the morning of, during the second weekend of March. As coaches, we’d been on them since early in the week when things were starting to look as though “okay, wait, we may actually need to take this pretty seriously here guys” and received no more guidance than “well if your team doesn’t feel safe, let us know, and we’ll record the forfeit”. And the youth league was entirely and completely on the fence up until about 11:59 that morning. (We are not located on the West Coast of the US, nor the East Coast near NYC)

      But at that point, we had no known positive cases in our entire state. Someone coming to work when potentially exposed? Currently? I’d flip a lid. Looking back on what was done the second week of March, knowing and applying what we knew at that point to the situation? I’m not sure what the correct answer here is.

    2. Rita S*

      Hi, I’m the Original Poster/Letter Writer….
      Claude has been heard from and his wife, the one who had the fever and dry cough, had been ordered to self quarantine for 14 days. She actually thinks she had a mild case of C19. But in any case, Claude is alive and still eating donuts.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Do you actually know he is still eating donuts, from your description I would guess he is ot one to bring donuts in himself but happy to partake when others do? So I don’t know if he even knows how to buy donuts.

  11. Hedgehug*

    Sorry, where in the letter does it say that Claude’s daughter and wife tested positive for COVID-19?

    I get the annoyance about the possible exposure, but it was not confirmed they had the virus, and all of you are freezing him out as if they did have the virus? You can’t not talk to a co-worker.
    If you’re all such a “family”, have any of you actually checked on his family to see that they’re ok, if they’ve been tested, etc? I feel like you’re blowing this out of proportion slightly based on previously held grievances with him over food faux-pas. This took place before this pandemic escalated, and before it was even declared a pandemic. I would cut him some slack a little bit since it was handled by your management immediately. I had a co-worker return from out of country after t his was declared a pandemic, and he continued coming to work. He didn’t stay home until after I guilted him 3 times.

    It’s time to let this go. A lot of people did not act seriously enough in the beginning.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Exactly! I work in healthcare and we’ve only been able to start testing patients with mild COVID symptoms for a few days now. For over a month we were only testing patients with severe symptoms, and healthcare workers – we just didn’t have enough tests to be able to process everyone. So it’s extremely likely that most people who had covid in the last couple months are not recorded as confirmed cases because we didn’t have enough tests to confirm it.

        And you definitely can’t say that no one got sick. He could very easily have spread it to one of these coworkers, who then went to the grocery store and spread it to a grocery store employee, who could have gotten sick themselves or spread it to multiple customers. That’s the whole point of why we’re doing all this, is that tons of people who are able to spread the virus don’t have symptoms. So it really doesn’t help to say that no one got sick, just because no one had symptoms.

        I was just reading about that guy in Illinois who broke Quarantine and was hit with a misdemeanor. The guy kept protesting that he “feels fine”. That is so 1000% not the point, dude. This is the moral equivalent of drunk driving: it’s probably not yourself that you might kill.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Depends where you are though. My county started testing early and often – my mom was tested three weeks ago even though she had a very slight cough, on the basis that several weeks prior she had traveled to an area with known community spread. In the past 4-6 weeks we’ve tested 1% of the county’s population.

          You’re correct for many locations. But, as with so much right now, it is highly variable.

        2. Hedgehug*

          You have said twice in your reply that I said “no one got sick”.
          Please, point out and quote where in my comment I said that. Because, I didn’t. We cannot know no one got sick. Just like we cannot know whether or not Claude or his family had the virus.

          Your whole comment seems to imply I don’t understand the pandemic? Um, I get it. The point of my response, and that of several other commenters on here, is that it’s been 4 weeks, and it’s time to stop demonizing Claude. This has absolutely nothing to do with “why we’re doing all this”. I know why all the measures are being taken. I agree with them.
          I also agree Claude should not have gone to work. I am glad his management sent him home immediately. I understand the coworkers being upset. They were right to be upset. But not to the extent they are 4 weeks later, when it has not been proven whether or not his family had the virus. We need to stop retroactively demonizing people. Hindsight is 20/20.

          I think the real issue here that OP and their coworkers are dealing with, is no acknowledgement from Claude about his irresponsible behaviour.
          OP, just tell Claude, “FYI, everyone is still miffed about you coming to work when your family was sick. An apology about potential endangerment would go a long way to smooth things over.”

    1. OOOF*

      I agree with you completely. People are so scared right now, some way more than others and they are policing those in their world even retroactively.
      OP needs to let this go-and I say that as someone who had coworkers coming in with symptoms for all sorts of reasons in early March. No sick time, fear of repercussions for missing work, irresponsible government officials downplaying the severity.
      Give Claude the grace to assume that he did not intend to expose you to anything deadly and move on.

    2. Dahlia*

      Hi, I got an xray at a hospital today because my spine injury is considered urgent!

      If I had been exposed to someone who tested positive for covid-19, I would not have been allowed in the hospital.

  12. Person from the Resume*

    I think you can let it go since you want to. Why? Because …

    … director instructed [Claude] to leave immediately and stay home for 14 days.

    Management knows. Management handled it exactly the right way. Management probably chastised him or plans to chastise him once he returns.

    I don’t think you have to go further to let him know that you’re and you’re coworkers are mad at him. Are you his manager/boss? If you are then maybe you need to say more, but since you didn’t say so I also think you don’t have the standing to be the one to talk to him about it.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This is where I’m at. OP is not Claude’s manager, so I’m not clear on why she would need to talk to him about anything – this happened weeks ago, management sent him home, and now they’re all working from home where he no longer poses a threat. If people keep icing him out when they get back to the office and he asks what’s up, then I could see the OP saying something, but otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to bring it up.

    2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Provisionally, I agree with this.

      Once people start going back to the office, or if you’re corresponding about work items while working from home, and people are locking Claude out of necessary work-related interactions, that’s a different kettle of fish, but if he’s just missing out on ordinary social situations, them’s the breaks of being a boor.

      1. RC Rascal*

        Here’s a shout out to the word “boor”. It’s the professional way to refer to all sorts of prickish, douchey, jackass behavior.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          I’m very fond of it. It encapsulates a lot of behaviors that don’t rise to the level of being unsafe, abusive, or specifically and unquestionably unacceptable, but definitely make someone last pick for the social draft.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Described in my household as someone we wouldn’t want to carpool with …

  13. By Providence Impoverished*

    The title of this post is pretty misleading. Nowhere does the letter say Claude was showing Covid19 symptoms.

  14. Jane*

    OP, if you’re feeling awkward about a “What’s up?” text, I would let that go. In terms of reaching out to people, that’s not a substantive conversation starter, or one that you throw out to a group with any reasonable expectation of commanding a serious response. It’s in the realm of “Hey.” He was probably just bored at home and threw out a vague “Hey” message, then promptly forgot about it when no one responded. And if he’s as clueless/oblivious as you describe, he’s not sitting at home with anxiety that no one responded to “What’s up?”

  15. LGC*

    I think – and this is not to justify Claude’s behavior at all – that a lot of people even in early March weren’t taking this seriously. If you want to think back to that time (which feels simultaneously like a lifetime ago and also like yesterday), about a month ago Rudy Gobert was performatively touching reporters’ microphones before WHOOPS guess who has the ‘rona.

    I also think you do get to address this with Claude…after you guys come back to work. (I’m not sure if you’re his manager or just the “office parent,” but I think you have more standing to enforce this with him if you do have supervisory responsibilities with him.) It sounds like you guys got lucky here – his wife and daughter might not have had COVID, and if they did he might not have passed it on to you – but it’s still pretty darn reckless of him.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Yep. Three senior team members went on a business trip to New York around the same time and no one checked their temperature or told them to WFH for two weeks, because by that time all travel restrictions were for China and its neighbouring countries. By the time the offices closed and our Goverment declared mandatory quarantine for everyone it was too late.

  16. Hills to Die on*

    No way in hell would I let this go. I’d address it, and I’d address it right away. His actions could have resulted in someone dying.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      But we don’t know that – because he did not have symptoms himself. We can speculate all day long – I get what you are saying completely and I agree that this was reckless. But I also think raking him over the coals for it now (or in 2 more months) will no have any outcome beyond making OP feel better. Now that we know more, he may know that he made the wrong choice then, but we can’t go back in time.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        He was exposed to people who did have symptoms. You can be asymptomatic and still infect others; that’s the big driver behind all the staying home right now.

        1. Blue*

          Completely true, but I don’t think it’s outlandish that Claude didn’t know that the first week or March. I certainly didn’t.

          1. MMD*

            Very true. Holding this against him seems like an overreaction. At the time common colds and influenza were circulating. Influenza kills tens of thousands of people a year. Let it go. It’s over.

          2. Archaeopteryx*

            Whatever healthcare provider told him to stay home at the time certainly knew it. And if his spouse is really a healthcare worker, there’s no chance she didn’t know too.

            1. A*

              Ya. I understand where people are coming from, but the fact that his wife works in healthcare changes the tune for me. I’m not even in healthcare (global business position), but even I was well aware of this from the get go of it spreading throughout Wuhan. Given travel in todays age, it was accepted fairly early on that it had most likely already entered the borders of other countries.

              This, unfortunately, was not widely communicated or accepted on the general public level (thanks terrible presidency) – but was very well known in related industries. Global organizations were warning far ahead of March. I don’t know a single healthcare worker (including those in admin positions) who wasn’t aware of it and the severity in Feb.

              1. Doc in a Box*

                I’m a doctor working with a primarily geriatric population. Went on vacation to Spain the first week of March. When I flew out there, they had just a few cases which seemed to be contained to the Canary Islands for the most part, so I packed some extra Purell and a packet of sanitizing wipes but thought it would be pretty much ok. Ten days later (and the day after I flew home): Madrid shuts down.

                Despite the fact that I work with a high-risk population, I got pushback from admin when I decided to self-quarantine on my return home, and lots and lots of angry patients. The public awareness a month ago was VERY different from today; there was a lot of “this is a bad flu” and next to no discussion of social distancing or asymptomatic transmission, even in a healthcare setting. I find it extremely plausible that his HCW wife was not aware of the risk; heck, even in mid-March, while I was on quarantine, I got calls and emails from other physicians trying to get me to see their (elderly, cancer-having, heart-disease-ridden) patients ASAP.

                This probably varies somewhat based on where you are located. I’m in an “urban center” in a very rural red state. (Having lived most of my life in the NE, I am kind of bewildered that this place is considered urban, but ok.) But just to say that Claude likely acted out of naivete, not malice.

                1. MJ*

                  Thank you for doing this. The ‘damage’ you have could wrought had you been infected, and went back to work, is horrible to imagine. But I have a glimpse as to why the US is being hit hard by SARS-COV2.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s certainly true, Alison, but at the time he was exposed, the flu was also going around. I agree with UW—we can speculate about his behavior, but assuming this happened before March 12, it’s not reasonable to assume that he knew it could be COVID instead of the flu or a URI.

          Most of the general public didn’t know about asymptomatic carriers until mid-March, and even to this day I have to explain to my parents (who are in the Bay Area on a multi-week SIP order) and clients that part of what makes COVID so dangerous is the Typhoid Mary effect. Because this was a new strain, we were learning a lot about how the virus operated in real-time. OP should not be icing him out or nursing anger based on what we know now about COVID.

      2. CL Cox*

        But it is perfectly correct to let him know that his co-workers are questioning his judgement in continuing to come into work when family members had the symptoms. In mid-February, the CDC was instructing helathcare workers about quarantingin anyone exhibiting the symptoms in order to prevent transmission. Claude’s wife is a healthcare worker, so she should have been more than aware of the recommendations by early March.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      Don’t forget – we could be dealing with this again in the fall. He needs to know so he can be held accountable and correct his behavior.

    3. Susie Q*

      Technically anything we do could have negative implications. For example requiring employees to drive to work. They could get into a car accident and die. That’s a difficult argument to make.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I think that statistically speaking, you are far more likely to infect someone if you are sick yourself than to get in a car accident on any random day. You also can control how you drive whereas you cannot control where your germs go after you breath them out. Not really sure this is a good parallel.

  17. Uranus Wars*

    Claude coming in and the directive to go home may have been within a day or two of one another, but not related.

    I know in my company, we sent Wakeen home one day because of symptoms and then next day the pandemic was declared and triggered our response plan. This includes sending all employees with WFH access home to work until further notice – so to the employee’s in Wakeen’s department he might have been the trigger due to exposure but the real trigger was the declaration. I would hate to hear Wakeen is being ostracized due to timing.

    Could be the same for Claude. I would also say in even the week before the pandemic we had a lot of confusion and denial about the impact of the virus in our company and geographic area in general. At that time April 6 seemed like a potential return to work date and now we are thinking more like June 1/July 1.

    1. Cj*

      total speculation here, but maybe it’s because of the fact that she is a healthcare worker that she knew if her kid had a fever on Friday from Covid, she wouldn’t have been better by Monday, and Claude said she was.

    2. NapkinThief*

      OP acknowledges in the letter the timing was a coincidence.

      I think it’s just mentioned to show that the seriousness of the virus was evident at the time.

  18. Cordoba*

    I submit that the appropriate reaction to this depends entirely on what actual rules were in place in whatever state/country/city Claude works at the time he came in to the office.

    It’s not reasonable to judge a call somebody made in early March based on the restrictions and knowledge we have now.

    In early March I was in a place where COVID-19 was active and infections were increasing, and the only extant guidance from state/national officials was “wash your hands, avoid groups of 200+ people, shrug”. Everybody was still coming to work like normal, presumably including people with kids and spouses who were exhibiting fevers and coughs.

    If this (or something close to it) was the case where LW works at the time Claude came in then I don’t know that people have much standing to be too upset with him; “I, a non-expert, followed the specific guidance of credible authorities” is a pretty solid defense.

    If the local recommendation at that time was that asymptomatic people who had been around unconfirmed but possible COVID-19 cases also quarantine themselves and avoid coming to work, then Claude made a much larger mistake. I’m not sure what value there is in bringing it up with him now, though. “Proper behavior during global pandemic unprecedented in living memory” is a fairly niche situation and probably doesn’t have much carryover to “always takes the first donut”.

    1. Alton*

      My state still had a fairly small number of cases in early March, but it was the same here. Large gatherings were discouraged but other than that, there was very little guidance. It wasn’t until the third week of March that a lot of things started to be cancelled. I have colleagues who were travelling to conferences in early March.

      I even called my doctor’s office at one point because I was feeling a little under the weather and wanted guidance on what to do, and their advice consisted of “Take some Tylenol if you need to.” They didn’t encourage me to stay home or self-isolate at all until I explicitly asked if I should, and even then it was more of a “Eh, it wouldn’t hurt” thing.

    2. Kyrielle*

      This! We had what was probably a bad cold in our house in early March, and the pediatrician told us to send the kid back to school once he was fever-free for 24 hours. (Some symptoms didn’t overlap well with the “standard three” for covid-19, but based on what we now know about symptoms in kids + asymptomatic carriers, I’m not sure they’d have given the same advice a week or two later, even.)

    3. Ramblin' Ma'am*

      Yup. I’m in the Boston area, which already had a significant # of cases by early March. At that time, my workplace was asking people to quarantine after traveling internationally, and there was way more hand sanitizer around the office. That’s it.

      Less than two weeks later, we were all WFH and haven’t been back since.

    4. Tuckerman*

      Agreed. In this case, it sounds like the company hadn’t issued any guidance on when employees need to stay home, and only emailed instructions after this incident. This example really highlights the need for companies to be proactive with guidance when we’re in/approaching a pandemic.

      A lot of companies pay lip service to the idea of staying home when you’re sick. We’ve probably all gone to work with a lingering cough or with symptoms that can be suppressed with medication. In hindsight we can say it’s horrible this person went in after being around sick family, but the expectations are a huge shift from the norm. Unless the company was super explicit- we WANT you to stay home if you were exposed to someone who is sick, we WILL pay you, I can see why people wouldn’t have adjusted to the new norm yet.

  19. StaceyIzMe*

    The issue with Claude seems to be that (at least in part) he’s given to showing poor judgement in social situations (and Covid-19 exposure is primarily averted through the measure of social distancing, ironically, in combination with handwashing). You can’t credibly freeze him out unless you collectively and actively plan to use whatever political capital you have to make the case that his judgement in this instance was so egregious that he should be terminated or warned sternly that he’s on very thin ice. The text chain could be taken as evidence that your team is creating a hostile environment and, together with any other evidence he can gather, construed as creating a hostile work environment. I don’t think that you have to let this go, at all. However, you don’t want the message of “you really screwed up” to get lost in the fog of “you’re all mean to me”.

    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Hostile work environment doesn’t just mean “people don’t like him.” What protected characteristic are they demonstrating hostility against?

      1. Poor Clod*

        This isn’t a hostile work environment because what’s happening to Claude isn’t anywhere close to “severe or pervasive,” but I could see an argument being made in some cases that being positive for COVID or being perceived as having COVID (as Claude is) could be a disability or perceived disability, thus making it illegal to harass a colleague on that basis under federal and some state laws. But again, this just isn’t the case for Claude.

      2. voyager1*

        I think Stacey might have mistyped and meant toxic or bullying (or similar term) in that sentence. Saying hostile twice is worded kind of weird and doesn’t make as much sense… at least to me.

    1. Elie A.*

      Thank you! Maybe it’s just that I’m hungry right now, but I felt like “the donuts are there! He didn’t take the only donut, just the first one, freeing others to take additional donuts!” Perhaps I did not focus on the most important aspect of this letter… :-)

  20. Count Boochie Flagrante*

    You made one sort of throwaway comment about working at home — is that what y’all are doing? If so, do you need to communicate with Claude to do your jobs? There are very different implications to freezing him out if he’s missing necessary work communication versus if he’s only missing out on socializing.

    If it’s work conversations, then I’m sorry to say that y’all are in the wrong (understandable, but wrong). You do not owe him friendship or socializing, but you are obligated to continue working with him for as long as it’s part of your and his jobs to work together. That has nothing to do with him, precisely, but rather it has to do with your own effectiveness for your employer. And in that case, I would talk to your manager rather than to Claude directly about how his behavior impacts the team’s willingness to interact with him, because that’s a management problem that’s going to have to be resolved.

    If, on the other hand, this is all strictly social, then pulling Claude aside to let him know what the issues are could be feasible, but is also really not necessary until you’re all back in the office.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I agree with you that OP and coworkers do not owe Claude friendship or overly socializing, but I do think they owe Claude some basic level of socializing. If they are deliberately freezing him out even if they are being responsive in a work context is not okay. They don’t have to chat with him all day, a hello response back when he says hello is warranted, or a basic “My weekend was good how was yours?” when Claude asks about people etc. This would be similar if the whole team was constantly going to lunch/happy hours/ together but not inviting Claude. Normally you can spend time with whoever you want outside of work, but when everyone except for one person is part of an event, it becomes more of a work event than a truly social event.

  21. Laufey*

    “He always grabs the first donut”

    Wait, is this an offense? I don’t trample people down to get one, but if no one takes the first one, we all end up staring awkwardly at the box for the whole meeting. Should I stop breaking the metaphorical ice (errr… glaze?)?

    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      I think in context with the other stuff, if he’s jumping up the second the donuts arrive and making first grabs consistently, it starts to look a little odd. If you don’t trample people to get one, there shouldn’t be a problem with breaking the metaphorical ice.

    2. OOOF*

      I think the OP doesn’t like Claude and probably finds everything he does annoying. Claude is a bitch eating crackers. This entire letter reads to me like the office busy body that keeps tracks of everyone’s wrongs and rights according to their opinion. If you are so immature that someone grabs the first donut and YOU’RE keeping track, you may be the problem. If you take a second donut before everyone gets one, different story.
      OP- grabbing a donut is not an offense.

      1. Cordoba*

        If a person even *knows* who always takes the first donut it’s very likely that person is paying too much attention to the donuts.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          I think it sounds like something very contextual.

          For example, my old team used to do a “breakfast club” once a week — and there was one guy who was really intense about getting the first serving. Every week, without fail, he was right there taking the first portion as soon as the dishes were set down. We noticed not because we were policing, but because it implied he wasn’t actually doing his job — was he really never working with a client at the specific time the food arrived? Never in the process of sending an email? Or was he doing things like putting a call on hold so he could be right there?

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I have to admit I would probably be this person. I don’t know what your situation was like, but if it was a scheduled time that food arrived, I would probably time my break for when the food arrives. If I am working on something I would try to find a natural stopping point around the time the food came, if I was with a client or on a call (if it was a webinar or call in just to listen I might) I probably wouldn’t stop. Personally I hate, hate, hate, take out on most foods, they get cold, or if they are kept warm the warming apparatus makes the food wet and soggy. Even for pizza, or fried rice I do not like to order delivery usually because I like it to be dry and crispy. Eating food at its freshest is the best. I have held my food an sanitation certificate so I am familiar with the requirements most office places do not always practice health and safety best practices. After it has been out for a while you don’t know if consultant Bob touched multiple pieces before deciding on which one he wanted, or washed his hands before grabbing a piece. Plus the fresher the food the better it tastes.

            1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

              Nah, it was brought by employees, so it would arrive whenever they arrived for their shifts, which varied. Plus, since it was stuff people were mostly bringing from home, it often wouldn’t be fresh and piping hot by the time it arrived anyway, since at best it would have been sitting through the whole length of their commute, if not longer.

                1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

                  Yep. Didn’t matter what it was, didn’t matter when they arrived. He was there as soon as they set the dish down.

            2. Jean*

              It’s appropriate to be mindful that pretty much everyone prefers food at its freshest, and remember that you’re not entitled to always be first in line just because “that’s when it tastes the best.” Have some consideration for others.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I mentioned this above in a different post, I do try to be considerate, but many times I have found that people are hesitant to be the first person to grab a slice of cake, or pizza etc… I have had people literally say “Thanks for going first.” sometimes hosts after they tell everyone to grab food an no one moves, or other participants who voice their own anxiety about being first for food.

                1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

                  Yeah, that’s why I said in my first comment to this thread that I think it’s contextual. If you’re in one of those cultures where no one goes first and there’s a whole slew of social inhibitions around beginning the food taking, that’s one thing, but if you aren’t in that type of culture and he’s rushing to be first anyway, that’s a whole different thing.

                2. Jojo*

                  Yes. If i bring a cake to work, i cut it before i set it out. Because nobody wants to be first. I never take leftover home. Those who do not cut have leftover.

          2. SweetestCin*

            This was exactly how I read it too, Count. Similar situation. We had one gentleman who would (literally) be sitting, waiting in the kitchen for breakfast club goods to show up on the designated morning, he’d complain if it was late, never ever deigned to help set up or clean up…

            …and we noticed because it was just another off-putting thing he did in our office that made him seem extremely out of touch with not just the team, but with customers as well.

      2. Myrin*

        Conversely, your comments read like you really want to drive home how you’re finding OP immature and unreasonable.

        But that aside, I’m always surprised when letters like this one get reactions like the one in this (and some other) threads – maybe I just know a lot of jerky people but personally, reading the first paragraph, I immediately recognised the type of person OP talks about (and keep in mind that these are but two examples OP picked out – there are probably others you’d be much more sympathetic to).
        If someone always jumps up and races to get the first of whatever food, gets a second portion before everyone has had their first, shoves others to get to the table faster, and loads their plate with three times as much food as everyone else, people are going to notice this sooner or later without actively keeping track of it, and I think it would be nice if we could direct lenience towards OP instead of accusing her of being a petty busybody having it out for someone.

        OP paints the picture of someone who is greedy and self-absorbed (the former may be caused by the latter, but doesn’t have to), and I think she does it well because it enables us to view his actions in this specific situation in the context of his general behaviour at least a little bit. That doesn’t mean that he acted maliciously – and I don’t think OP suggests that, either – but as someone above said already, his behaviour here follows his general pattern of behaviour elsewhere.

        (None of that means that I think OP should initiate a conversation with Claude about this, btw. I honestly don’t know if I’d personally want to say anything at all, really, especially with how much time has passed by now and will have passed once they’re finally back together physically.)

        1. Poor Clod*

          But OP didn’t say that Claude “gets a second portion before everyone has had their first, shoves others to get to the table faster, and loads their plate with three times as much food as everyone else.” You’re just assuming that.

          The idea that Claude must be “greedy” and “self-absorbed” because he gets the first donut sounds like a very black-and-white way of looking at the world. Why make the leap to “Claude must be a total jerk” when the person described just sounds inattentive, tone deaf, or inconsiderate?

          I think it can be helpful for OP and other commentors to see other people’s perspectives on high crimes like donut-grabbing, especially when a lot of people who disagree with them. If etiquette is just other people’s norms, and a lot of people disagree with OP’s views on what those norms are….then that’s a sign that OP’s sense of etiquette is skewed. OP needs to know that, or else s/he will come across as unreasonable to people who actually matter, not just strangers online.

          1. Myrin*

            For what it’s worth, when I wrote that part of the comment, I wasn’t talking about Claude in particular but more about what other things a person who is inconsiderate around food is likely to do (as an answer to the “if you notice this, you’re a petty busybody” accusation – I said that if a person regularly does X, Y, Z, and A, you’re likely to notice that without paying attention to it).
            But in this case, yes, I’m totally assuming that (and, funnily enough, I actually debated with myself whether I should add a caveat to that point but then decided against it), but that’s exactly my point – OP describes Claude in such a way that we can readily extrapolate what other food-related offences he commits, and though I don’t say that often, in this case I’m absolutely willing to bet that he does the things I made up.

            I also don’t see where I described Claude as “a total jerk”? I made a reference to jerky people I might know in my life, but that was more of a general comment about jerky behaviour, and I maintain that someone who exhibits a noticeable amount of small offences like Claude does – and again, OP just lists two examples but alludes to there being many more – is indeed showing jerky behaviour. I’d also posit that someone who is often inattentive, tone-deaf, and inconsiderate is displaying jerky behaviour by doing so, too.

            I do agree with your last paragraph. But I also really think – and that was really the point of my original comment – that people are too focused on the two specific examples OP provides without gleaning the overall point from it, which is that Claude can be inconsiderate and selfish.

    3. annakarina1*

      I think the LW just doesn’t like this person and have zeroed in on this, whereas they wouldn’t pay attention if a person they liked or was indifferent to did it. It sounds like it’s gotten to the BEC stage where someone is just keeping score in their head of the annoying things this person does.

    4. leapingLemur*

      If you grab the first donut when everyone is waiting for someone to get it, no biggie. If you always rush to grab the first one before anyone else gets a chance, annoying.

  22. Nameless*

    If I am reading your letter correctly, nobody has communicated with Claude in two weeks. He might be dead?

    1. Pennyworth*

      I wondered that too! As for taking the first donut, be glad he is not taking six, or the whole box. If he is taking the only, favorite donut, then order more of them.

  23. Malarkey01*

    I think the response to Claudes actions and Allison’s response are overly harsh given the timing. If this happened over 4 weeks ago, we were at the beginning of the US response. Schools were still open in this community. Nowhere in any of the guidance that I was giving or receiving at the time were there instructions to quarantine for a sick family member unless they was a travel history or an actual confirmed case of CoVid.
    Around that time I was told on this blog that my comments were overreacting when I pointed out the seriousness and that things would start to shut down.

    As hard as it is to think back 4 weeks ago, things were very different, and we can’t apply a March 20th lens to something that happened March 9th. Your management needs clear rules going forward that everyone adheres too, but I think holding Claude to a standard that very few companies/officials were following is overly critical.

    1. MMD*

      Excellent point. I think LW is acting out of proportion because this guy is generally annoying and gets under her skin. Best just to let it go and move on. Nothing adverse happened.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      we can’t apply a March 20th lens to something that happened March 9th

      YES! This is a fantastic reminder when we look back in these times. So much changed between March 1 and March 15.

  24. Brett*

    The big problem I see here is that everything in the letter was hearsay.

    No one talked to Claude’s kid’s school. (And his daughter already has a different chronic illness apparently.)
    Claude’s wife’s symptoms (and his sleeping on the couch) came third-party from a co-worker.

    Getting small details wrong in the hearsay could change this completely. If Claude’s wife had a wet cough or had nausea to go with the other symptoms, then she almost certainly had a flu instead of COVID-19. Or any of several other small variations in symptoms could clearly indicate a different illness instead of COVID-19.

    But because COVID-19 is foremost in everyone’s minds, it is easy to focus _only_ on the symptoms that match, or even hear symptoms slightly differently so that they do match. OP co-workers are not medical professionals; Claude’s wife is. They are not privy to Claude’s family’s medical history; his family is. They could very easily be getting the situation completely wrong because of the huge reliance on hearsay here.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      If Claude’s wife had a wet cough or had nausea to go with the other symptoms, then she almost certainly had a flu instead of COVID-19.

      Only, some COVID-19 positive individuals reported having nausea and gastrointestinal issues prior to developing a cough, so it wouldn’t have necessarily ruled it out as a possibility.

        1. Brett*

          But the assumption that it _is_ COVID-19 is still wrong as well, and more likely to be wrong.

      1. nonegiven*

        A doctor on twitter reported getting the runs, he’d been quarantined and his family moved out. I mentioned it to DH that it wasn’t supposed to be a symptom, he said, “the guy is eating his own cooking.”

    2. Mazzy*

      This is one my fears going forward. Not that I am completely on Claude’s side, but I remember companies started sending some staff to WFH that week, or giving them the option to, and then seeming a little surprised that people took them up on the offer.

      My fear though is that every time someone has allergies or just coughs because someone has something caught in their throat, that everyone is going to think COVID19, we’re all going to die. That’s at least how some of my relatives are. Is the new normal going to be that every time someone is sick, we make them stay out for two weeks? Some people may like this, others are going to try to hide the fact that they’re sick because they don’t want to stay home for two weeks or because they don’t have a nice enough or big enough place or they have a crazy roommate they don’t want to spend more time with.

      And I think Claude was doing was people have done up til this point in the USA, go to work sick because of work ethic. I’m sure that part of our culture is going to change.

    3. Poor Clod*

      Agree. Also, we don’t actually know what all the symptoms of COVID-19 are yet. I read an article a few days ago that speculated, based on Google searches alone, that “eyes hurting” could be a symptom. There’s just so much (mis)information out there right now.

      1. Librarian1*

        I think “eyes hurting” is more likely to be a symptom of spending too much time starting at screens.

  25. omg white whine whinner*

    I think the problem here is that you (and apparently your office mates) dislike Claude in general, whether he’s a good guy or not, and this is a good excuse. I cannot think of any other reason you would be holding on to this anger after a month! Are you sick? Are any of your officemates sick? No? great, why don’t you count your blessings, and focus all the energy you’ve been wasting on being annoyed with Claude, and make some masks for a homeless shelter?

    1. Mazzy*

      I would add “feeling of helplessness and uncertainty,” which puts the OP in a better light. I can’t really fault OP for being nervous, especially with so much uncertainty out there. Remember, the news is being positive this week, but have been extremely negative recently – I’ve seen articles on how coronavirus can stay alive on the beach (don’t believe it, I felt that was fear mongering), that it can travel up to 27 feet in the air, that you can get reinfected (again, I felt that was unnecessary fear mongering since it didn’t raise the possibility of faulty testing), and there was and still is talk of mass ventilator shortages, again, something that is being viewed less as a risk as the numbers aren’t rising as rapidly and now doctors are seeing that ventillating may not be the best therapy (see the interwebs today for that).

      So if this were two weeks ago, and the media was saying a million people were going to die, that some would die because there weren’t going to be enough ventillators, and that the virus can travel 30 feet in the air, yeah, I could allow people to be on edge and angry at someone coming to work sick!

    2. EM*

      Yes. OP and colleagues haven’t spoken to Claude in a month, but have started a seperate text chain excluding him where they complain about him. This is now bullying and needs to stop.

  26. Professional Panda*

    Oh boy we have a somewhat similar situation where a coworker got sick with the flu (was out of the office for 4 work days) back in February (so after the first case in our state, and at a time where Covid was heavily in the news already). She came back to the office the next week, was still coughing a lot, and definitely not being “recovered”. Now for the past 3 weeks, she has been talking A LOT about how she definitely had coronavirus, with the sole evidence that “her symptoms matched”. She brings it up in any conversation, every time someone mentions having a sniffle “be careful, this is how it started with me”… We have a few immunocompromised people in the office, and I think it is very distasteful to be constantly bringing up the fact that she exposed the office to a disease.

    1. LGC*

      …I’ve heard that a lot myself – I’ve heard a couple of people speculate that they might have had COVID back in February or even earlier. Although not quite that obnoxious – is there anyone that can tell her to knock it off? People are terrified (like, I had to talk to several people to convince myself that I wasn’t going to catch this and end up on a ventilator if I so much as thought of the grocery store), and she is Very Emphatically Not Helping.

    2. MMD*

      Unfortunately some people like to brag about these things. I see it. She probably had a textbook URI or mild influenza. All can have similar symptoms. Very sick Covid patients deteriorate quickly, with abnormal vital signs.

    3. Cj*

      I was sick last week. Fever shivering, coughing. Pretty much the same as I want you. so I went for a test, and thankfully it was negative. Now please nobody tell me there are a lot of false negatives.

  27. DecorativeCacti*

    I think there is a lot of previous animosity for Claude that might be leaking through. I don’t know what your work setup is like, but I’ve had symptoms of COVID-19 and I’m still at work because I have to be. I don’t have enough sick leave or vacation to stay home, work won’t tell me to stay home so I can collect unemployment, my doctor won’t tell me to self-quarantine unless I get tested, and I can’t get tested because my fever isn’t high enough.

    It sounds like you guys have a lot more flexibility than I’m being offered (they won’t let me do my job that is 100% on the computer from home), but Claude may not have made the jerk choice but the only choice he could.

  28. OOOF*

    OMG he always takes the first donut. What a horrible person. This is classic ‘bitch eating crackers’ and the OP seems to be overreacting to everything Claude did. I don’t even know why this would be included in the letter, if the issue is exposure, the issue is exposure. But OP is invested in the donut/pizza angle and it seems like classic office busybody/bully to me. I don’t trust the narrator in this situation, because anyone doing donut math is immature. OP- This is a stressful time, but since you didn’t get Covid 19 from Claude and now your precious donuts are safe, maybe relax.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      The OP is referring to what seems to be Claude’s lack of good judgement and common sense in certain areas. The OP never said that Claude was the scum of the earth or alluded to anything like that.

  29. Anon Anon*

    I agree with others to let it go. I work in a healthcare adjacent field. I was aware of COVID-19, as were the leaders in my organization. None of us were particularly concerned about COVID-19 until probably mid-March. Until cases started springing up more regularly in areas outside of Washington and San Francisco, I don’t think most people either realized how prevalent the disease was, and because of the mixed messages from our various politicians I don’t think most people realized how dangerous it was (it was compared to the flu or H1N1).

    I do have a question about this statement:

    “Your letter mentioned another 3-4 weeks of working from home. It’s almost certainly going to need to be longer than that. Be prepared to push back with public health guidance if your company starts seriously planning to bring you back in mid-May.”

    And perhaps my question would be better for another post. How should employees push back if their employer wants to bring back employees in mid-May? I think there will be many employers who will try to be overly aggressive in getting everyone back working in the building.

    1. Arctic*

      I had questions about that too. The federal government is also eager to get everyone back to work and even now there is no nationwide stay-at-home. And many states are still not taking this seriously never mind in a few weeks.

      Especially if, as predicted, we hit our peak the next two weeks and there is a decline following it is going to be very very difficult for employees to push back without a government edict. Especially in this economy.

      I don’t disagree with the sentiment that we should still be in lock-down at that point but what about the reality?

    2. Ellen Ripley*

      Yes, I’d love to have some discussion about this too, probably on another post. Mid-May seems like a reasonable time for most areas in the US given the current stats, and in a lot of areas it’ll probably be the beginning of May.
      I’m not sure that my area’s going to wait much longer than the end of April. Too many people have no money coming in and we’re all going to go broke and eventually get evicted. Not to mention the psychological strain of it all. For the first couple weeks of stay-at-home, I was fully on team “lives are more important than the economy” but it’s really not that simple. Fingers crossed that the new antibody tests are accurate and can be scaled up as well as more wide-spread testing to find asymptomatic carriers.

      Obviously industries/offices where some people can WFH should continue to do so for the next few months, and a lot of schools won’t go back until fall, it looks like, so somebody’s going to have to stay home with the kids. But I can’t imagine another two or three months of almost complete lockdown.

    3. Librarian1*

      I think many employers will extend their telecommuting time and I think many governments will also extend their stay at home orders and closures of certain economic sectors.

  30. LarsTheRealGirl*

    I also want to chime in with some date perspective. I work on the East Coast and my company has offices in NYC. I just dug back through my emails and my company (who I think was actually on the early end of responses and WFH orders) didn’t close until 3/12. We went from “let us know if you’ve been travelling or have symptoms” up to March 10th, and then full lockdown, no one even allowed to go to offices to pick something up on March 12th.

    Not showing symptoms himself, not having clear guidance country-wide, being told by government leaders (by the president, no less) that this isn’t that big of a deal, etc, it’s very probable that this wasn’t a malicious act.

    1. Anon Anon*

      I’m in the midwest. We went from the 11th where we got an email to remind us to wash our hands and to ask us to refrain from coming to work sick to within 7 days asking everyone to work from home. And within 14 days of the original ‘wash your hands’ email our area got a shelter-in-place order.

      I think things changed exceptionally quickly.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        I mean, how else are essential workers going to get to work? A lot of people live in one borough and work in another, especially for those who work in Manhattan. My husband works with a lot of doctors and nurses who rely on the train to get to work.

        Would it be helpful if it shut down? Sure. But it’s completely unrealistic. Who exactly is going to be paying for that respiratory therapist’s cab ride twice a day to and from deep Queens?

      2. boo bot*

        I may be missing context or tone here, but the NYC subway is providing limited service for medical workers and other essential personnel to get to and from work – the rest of us are not supposed to use it.

        Some people might be doing so anyway, but as far as I know there’s really no way to shut down the entire public transit system and still keep the hospitals and grocery stores running.

        1. Arctic*

          And in NYC there are a lot of food desert neighborhoods where one essentially has to take the subway to get to a grocery store. And delivery groceries are hard to get right now. So even non-essential workers may have to use it once or twice a week.

          1. Doc in a Box*

            I went to medical school in New York in the mid-2000s and lived in one of these food deserts! There were a few restaurants in the area, but no grocery store. The hospital/school ran a grocery bus on Saturday mornings to the Harlem Fairway. You also could not get a cab to take you home, because (1) the area was pretty dangerous after dark and (2) they couldn’t get a fare going the other way. It was subway or bust.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      Same here. I had a wicked cold w/a cough but *had* to come in to the office because 2 people were out and I was covering both of them, plus my job. If that special circumstance hadn’t existed, I would have taken sick days. There’s no evidence I had COVID–I think it was just a nasty cold. But of course people are going to be retroactively paranoid.

      I do know that no one on my teams has tested positive, because several people at my company have had COVID officially diagnosed. If any had been on my teams, I would have been notified/tried to get a test/self-quarantined.

      The greater point I see in the letter is “Claude is kind of a dick but we let it slide for the sake of all getting along but now he is out of hall passes.” That’s not actually unreasonable. We all make a thousand tiny judgments about people every day that affect our trust and respect levels. People move up and down our personal scales. Claude just earned himself a fat demerit, fairly or not. I wouldn’t bother to address it, LW. But I wouldn’t forget it either. He will get his act together or he will not, and be treated accordingly.

    3. AnonWednesday*

      When you are already so annoyed with a coworker it is easier to ascribe a malicious act when there is not.

  31. Can Man*

    My employer is taking Covid-19 seriously (still operational due to essential status, but sent most employees to work from home weeks ago, removed seats in the break rooms for those remaining, increased sick leave before it became law, is giving us masks for work and public use, changing the shift schedule to have two non-overlapping teams, etc.), and they still say you’re allowed (not required) to come into work if a household member has symptoms, as long as they don’t have a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19, you are self-monitoring for symptoms, and you’re taking precautions such as limiting your in-home contact with them. Yes, we’re in a county with only a couple confirmed cases, but I would think they have a good risk assessment given everything else. This was a stupid move, but it seems to be “running in the hall” stupid and not “driving while drinking from a moonshine jug” stupid. Especially considering the atmosphere at the beginning of March.

  32. Diatryma*

    I work in healthcare, and we were instructed to keep coming to work if a family member had tested positive for COVID (with further monitoring). If his wife or any other family member was part of my hospital system or one with a similar policy weeks ago, it’s likely that they used that for guidance on whether Claude could come to work.

    You might also consider what you would have done if Claude hadn’t come in to work. Then he’d be the first in line for donuts and pizza *and* the first to skip work due to quarantine.

    1. Doc in a Box*

      Yup. I returned from a vacation in Europe in early March; at the time I left, the only guidance from my large academic medical center was “reconsider any planned travel to China” and two days after I came home, they were like “stay home for 14 days after any international travel,” and a week after that, it was “100% telemedicine for patients, all research protocols suspended, virtual classes for the students.”

  33. voyager1*

    I really don’t get the whole first paragraph of the LW. Is that supposed to make me hate Claude more or something.

    What is relevant isn’t in the letter. Where did this occur. Everyone is assuming it is in the USA, it may not be. If this was Italy for example or South Korea… my opinion changes. If it was Washington state vs Georgia it changes.

    What also is missing is what laws/orders were in effect where this happened. I work for a company headquartered in New Orleans. When the first employee went out with the flu in my building we all were sent home to WFH. I however do not live in New Orleans, but this was a company wide decision and we have folks all over the USA.

    I think the LW needs to step back and let this go. Yeah maybe Claude could be a nicer person and stop eating donuts, but it sounds like to me LW really just doesn’t like Claude.

    1. valentine*

      I really don’t get the whole first paragraph of the LW.
      It shows Claude’s pattern of selfishness in the workplace.

  34. Jennifer Juniper*

    Sounds like Claude was already disliked by the entire office and his last major offense resulted in him being put on perma-freeze by the rest of the office.

    Also, someone has to take the first donut. I don’t understand why that’s offensive.

    The line-jumping, yes. That’s one thing we all learned not to do in kindergarten.

    1. Heidi*

      This first donut thing is not a real problem, I agree, unless he’s taking more than his share and not leaving enough for everyone. It is so weird to me that there really and truly is a stigma about it. Do we just strategically remove one donut so that no one thinks they are the first? Do we put together a schedule where we take turns taking the first donut?

      I’m glad you all didn’t get sick, though, OP!

      1. valentine*

        I think the doughnut only matters because of the other things, so, in retrospect, it seems like the patient zero for Claude’s behavior.

      2. Poor Clod*

        We should draw lots at every meeting to determine who should bear the burden of taking the first donut. If someone draws the first donut three times, then they must be paraded through the office wearing a dunce cap while doing the Truffle Shuffle.

  35. Tram*

    The first statewide stay-at-home order was issued March 19 by California. It seems centuries ago when we started taking this seriously but I think the OP is really wildly off base. And I say that as someone in a major US city whose employer acted much faster than most to implement telework.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t know why you’re using the Stay at Home orders as your measuring stick, the first state to issue a state wide emergency was February 29th. From there we went from “no groups of over 250” to “no groups over 50” to “no groups over 10” in a matter of days. They were talking about social distancing and people were canceling unessential travel left and right.

      I do think that the OP is overreacting and is scared and therefore lashing out at Claude. But Claude should have known better than to show up when his house was full of sickness when a mysterious virus was starting to hit areas of the US.

  36. Alice*

    I don’t think that Claude is the real problem. Your company’s limited pre-pandemic sick leave policy was the problem. Maybe reallocate some energy from freezing out Claude and tracking who takes which bagel towards advocating for a more robust sick leave policy in the future. It sounds like your company’s management has woken up to the importance of usable sick leave as a result of the pandemic, which is great; I hope it leads to a better policy long term.

    1. valentine*

      advocating for a more robust sick leave policy
      Unless you want it to be unlimited, there’s nothing to say it isn’t robust and it being a factor is just a guess on OP’s part. It’s not the reason Claude gave and is he likely to be a line cutter yet silent on sick leave?

    2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      What’s your basis for asserting that the company’s pre-pandemic sick leave policy was insufficient?

      1. anon4this*

        The OP admitted Claude is “not dumb”, with a spouse that works in healthcare, so the only logical reason one could assume he came into work Monday, after leaving Friday to tend to his sickly daughter, is because the pre-pandemic sick leave policy was not great and he could not afford to take off work unless he was showing symptoms himself.

        1. Avasarala*

          Or, bear with me, Claude has a continued pattern of non-malicious thoughtlessness and general inconsiderate actions towards this coworkers. For example, he always leaps to be the first to take food and doesn’t help people clean up, to the extend that it is noticed by his coworkers, where this behavior is not viewed positively.

          As it states in the letter.

          1. Anon4this*

            Or the coworkers are looking for more justification to continue their cold unkind behavior toward Claude, so they’re zeroing in on trivial pet peeves to bolster their stance.
            The problem is enough time has passed that it’s obvious Claude did not transmit anything and the severity of COVID-19 is obvious at this point.
            Nothing is being gained by the OP’s behavior, except to cruelly isolate a coworker.

  37. Dancing Otter*

    Claude: “What’s up?”
    Me: “Busy working on XYZ. Did you need something?”

    I don’t think you have to be friendly, but you have to be at least minimally polite and professional. It’s not about what kind of person Claude is; it’s about what kind of person you want to be.
    Of course, done properly, it’s possible to be polite *and* chilly.

  38. EventPlannerGal*

    What Claude did was certainly thoughtless, but I agree with commenters above that this all just sounds like you guys don’t like him. His food-related faux pas are so minor that even bringing them up really does make it sound like a BEC situation.

    I understand being annoyed and upset by what he did, but I don’t understand stewing over it as a collective for four weeks when nobody got sick. I mean, if you’re so family-like and you’re so sure he was exposed to coronavirus… is he okay? Is his presumably high-exposure healthcare-worker wife okay? Have any of you bothered to ask? Or is that unimportant compared to his crime of taking the first doughnut?

      1. anon4this*

        Or the black sheep.
        The OP even cruelly called his apartment *tiny*, as in, she’s seen it and judges him for it.

  39. Katie*

    I sincerely hope that someone has asked Claude if he and his family are ok. Please try to find kindness during these trying times. I doubt that he would have knowing put anyone at risk (even if he does take the first donut.) It was early days when this happened. (And if it were me, I’d be grateful to Claude and your employer for allowing you to work from home at such an early date. By showing up, Claude may have unintentionally SAVED you all from exposure. Try not to make him live to regret it.)…and Good Luck to us all!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. Freezing the guy out at this point is ridiculous. If people are still upset and feel the need to say something to him, say it and move on with life.

  40. Ciscononymous*

    Here’s what I will say about this. We had a large statewide gathering of people in my (US) state, March 11th and 12th. We were still required to attend and in fact had to personally email our director if we could not and give our reason. On March 13th, we were inundated with COVID-19 response plan emails and had to move all of our trainings online. So I don’t know that the company’s dramatic reaction means that they had already been communicating about this with staff – that certainly wasn’t the case where I work.

    1. Ciscononymous*

      *Dramatic wasn’t the right word. I meant their very sudden and decisive reaction.

  41. The Rat-Catcher*

    Clearly there is a lot of room to debate about Claude’s actions here, but I would not say anything to him on the basis of “all our coworkers are still really pissed off.” Let Claude manage his own relationships. This honestly reminds me of being told in college “We all talked about it and we are all mad at you.” Even if I HAD been wrong and thought about apologizing, that shut it down. If your coworkers are still stewing months after the fact, that’s for them to handle.

  42. Doc in a Box*

    It’s really interesting right now to look back at Alison’s first post tagged “The Plague,” titled “How is your office responding to coronavirus.” It’s dated March 9 — so the day all this would have gone down with Claude. There’s a huge variation, from “everyone is being told to prepare for WFH indefinitely” to “stay home if you develop symptoms or have recently traveled to a hot spot.” These are all from people who note that their companies are remote-friendly and have existing WFH policies. For a company that doesn’t have all that in place — which the OP indicates is true of her company — and has a limited sick leave policy, I can see why, on March 9, Claude thought it would be acceptable to come to work after sleeping on the couch.

    Even as of today, 4/8, my home state, which was one of the first to declare a state of emergency, says this for household contacts of persons under investigation (suspected of having covid):

    If a PUI is under home isolation, can their household contacts attend work or school?
    Yes, as long as the close contacts have no symptoms of COVID-19 AND are not healthcare workers (different recommendations exist for healthcare personnel). Close contacts, such as household members of PUIs, are considered “low-risk” until SARS-CoV-2 test results are available. While test results are pending, close contacts should be instructed to self-observe for symptoms compatible with COVID-19. There are no movement restrictions for the close contacts of PUIs.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Except, the OP clarified above that this happened March 16 – dude had plenty of notice that shit had hit the fan at that point.

  43. MommyMD*

    And he was not sick. He was not a PUI as some are insinuating. I think the outrage is confounding. And I work with this everyday. It’s weeks ago and over. Give the guy a break. Thank you for being a voice of reason. Retaliation or freezing this guy out or confronting him is so inappropriate. And it’s doubtful his kid even had it.

  44. MommyMD*

    The CDC just issued guidelines for workers who have been exposed. Read them and forgive donut guy.

  45. MommyMD*

    Calling him Typhoid Mary is overkill and not kind. I think it also fosters negativity towards him with OP.

  46. Lancelottie*

    I think it was around the time of Claude’s indiscretion that I wrote in about the vacation my family was planning this week, and what to do if his company insisted he work from home afterwards. And now here we are three days into our staycation fielding emails from work about whether he’ll WFH or be fully isolated in the workplace (they may need him for in-person maintenance) starting Monday. Things changed in a hurry.

  47. Batgirl*

    My reaction would depend on Claude’s personality which is hard to judge from here. If Claude is completely mindlessly thoughtless then it would be a kindness to sometimes say to him “Don’t snag the best donut again. People are getting annoyed” or “Don’t bring the plague in again. Every one was incandescent”.
    However OP suggests there’s more thought put in than that and he deliberately decided ‘fuck the risk, I can’t afford the sick days’.
    If you were really convinced of the latter, there’s a danger that Claude simply won’t tell you next time. He’ll come in and won’t mention his wife’s cough, because now he knows there’s no consensus on his way of thinking, which is a bit ‘elbows out, me first’
    Luckily the initial outbreak of a serious virus is something that doesn’t happen every Monday. If the same scenario repeats again, it’s something you can ask your leadership to take into account (that not everyone can be trusted to make great calls) and they can possibly proactively offer people work from home if a kid or spouse gets sick.
    As for restoring harmony in the office family………………nah, don’t.
    Be civil, but don’t worry about being so cosy. If Claude is creating awkwardness, it’s fine to let that awkwardness sit there till Claude cleans it up.

  48. No Name*

    This pandemic is unprecedented in the Western world. This is the first time we have experienced the entire country shutting down and people are afraid, stressed and there is no end in sight. At times like this, the lizard part of the brain that deals in fight or flight and survival needs something to punish so you can feel in control and stop being scared. Blaming your fake news president gives no satisfaction – you can’t get to him. But you can blame Claude. You can ice him out and force him to grovel and beg for forgiveness. Sure no one was harmed by his error in judgment but the bastard always takes the first doughnut. He deserves to be punished. That is the lizard brain.

    You need to let this go. There were a lot of mistakes made by a lot of people. Very few people expected the hyperchondriacs and doomsdayers to actually be right. The messages coming from authorities were conflicting and downplayed the danger until suddenly everything was in lockdown and super serious.

  49. RUKiddingMe*

    Claude sounds like a jerk.

    1. First in line for food. 2. Doesn’t help (women doing all the prep and clean up?).
    3. Prioritizes his desires to go into work over the health of who knows how many people.
    4. Cavalier when called out: “slept on the couch.”
    5. Inconvenienced everyone by causing an immediate “Everyone is WFH effective now, no set deadline to return to the office.”

    Sure #5 was likely to come to pass anyway, but without so much lack of awareness of literally the rest of the world’s human population, it may have not been quite so acute and immediate.

    It may still have, we’ll never know, but without the thoughtless asshatty behavior there was always at least a chance that it could have been more ordered and less urgent.

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