my employee thinks coronavirus is a hoax

A reader writes:

One of my employees has been vocal about the coronavirus being a hoax. I had to have a talk with him during our last few days in the office at the end of March because he was openly criticizing and mocking coworkers for “being afraid of the flu” and practicing social distancing. While the rest of us isolated and worked at home, he went on two different vacations out of the state and did not isolate upon returning as required.

We’re now phasing people back into the office, and he believes that all of the safety guidelines are violating his freedom. He still won’t practice social distancing without being told, he will not wear a mask without being told, and he even planned another vacation when the company has asked us not to travel except in the case of emergencies. I’m worried about him continuing to travel but not reporting it as required by company policy, as he is a part-time employee without benefits and his required quarantine time after that kind of travel would be unpaid (so a weekend trip to a hotspot, which he does frequently, would become two full weeks without a paycheck because his job requires him to be in the office).

The rest of my employees have been wonderful at following the guidelines, and some have privately expressed fears about working with him again. My own boss has also spoken to him about needing to obey safety policies, but he still “forgets” to do so until someone tells him.

I am at an absolute loss regarding how to get this employee to take these safety precautions seriously when he still sees the coronavirus as a political issue instead of a public health issue. I am very worried that he will bring the virus into the office and get others sick. Do you have any advice for handling this employee and protecting the rest of my staff?

Honestly, I think you should be prepared to fire him.

This is someone who is putting all of your employees at risk (as well as any clients, vendors, or others he deals with face-to-face), openly refuses to follow safety procedures and mocks others who do, is violating company policy, and has the rest of your employees rightly on edge about being around him.

This isn’t about his beliefs about the virus; it’s about his refusal to comply with your policies. If you imagine him responding the same way about, say, safety protocols for dangerous chemicals, I’m guessing the answer would be much clearer — you’d tell him forthrightly that following the company’s safety procedures is a mandatory part of the job and then you’d hold him to that, meaning that if he continued to flout the rules you’d need to let him go. It’s the same thing here.

At most, I’d have one final conversation with him where you lay out the company’s requirements — he needs to wear a mask at work, physically distance himself from others, report and quarantine after any travel, and not undermine others who are adhering these rules — and tell him if he cannot do that, you cannot keep him on. Ask him explicitly, “Knowing that this is non-negotiable, are you willing to comply with these rules 100% of the time? I want to be clear that since that we’ve already spoken about this multiple times, we’re going to have a zero-tolerance policy from this point forward, and we will need to let you go if you don’t follow these policies.”

But frankly, I think the damage may already be done and I question if this approach will keep your employees as safe as they deserve to be. This is someone who’s shown you that he doesn’t take this seriously and that he’s going to “forget” to do things he doesn’t want to do. He’s highly likely to be taking risks outside of work, and his coworkers know that. (That part is tricky because lots of people are taking risks outside of work and presumably the answer is not to fire all of them, but in his case it’s a piece of an alarming larger picture.)

Ultimately, it comes down to this: You care about your employees’ safety. He’s shown he’s not going to respect your policies around that. I don’t think this is someone you want or need on your staff.

As a side note: In other circumstances I might point out that requiring people to quarantine post-travel but not paying them for that time is going to disincentivize people from reporting said travel. I get that it’s not reasonable to pay part-time employees for two weeks of doing nothing after they take a vacation … but you’ve got to be realistic about the consequences to that policy. I don’t think it’s super relevant here because this guy is so problematic regardless of any potential travel, but that piece is worth thinking about. (I also don’t think anyone has good answers to it yet.)

{ 603 comments… read them below }

        1. Cathie from Canada*

          Here’s an interesting article about “The Excessive Need to be Me” which speaks to this type of behaviour:

          Basically, its driven by ego.
          I had a friend who was a safety officer in a potash mine, where hard hats are required in some places. He came in one day shaking his head in disbelief, because he had just had to fire one of the mine office employees who refused multiple times to wear a hard hat in the locations where it had to be worn – he said the guy seemed to think it was some kind of macho contest, rather than just a simple safety regulation.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Thanks for that. I do believe that this scoffing at safety rules as a display of machismo is at least a tacit acknowledgement that some risk exists. After all, where is the display of bravery or disdain for others’ cowardice if there isn’t any actual risk? The guy (my perception is that it is nearly always guys) can ignore the risk precisely because he’s just that much tougher or braver or better at the job than everyone else. It’s absolutely ego-driven.

            Come to think of it: at least one of the safety-scoffers I’ve worked with over the decades, one of those guys who’ll remove safety guards from machine tools, actually did say that they consider such equipment to be insulting when made mandatory. Like the bosses are assuming he doesn’t know how to use the tools without losing a finger. (And there have been some poorly-designed guards over the years that interfered with the work and “broke” off, never too be replaced. Especially cheap tools.)

            But this is something else as well. This isn’t about protecting him from the hazards of his work. It’s about protecting others, the entire company.

            The hoax theory that’s driving or reinforcing this is itself ego-driven. It’s a real boost to the ego to believe that one is in on secret knowledge that allows one to see through what the masses have been fooled to believe. To “know the real truth” is just another way to believe the people around one are inferior to one’s self, especially when there’s just enough other true believers out there to reinforce each other.

            1. JustaTech*

              I had a boss like that “real scientists don’t wear lab coats” “eh, you don’t need gloves for that”.

              And then he would get mad when someone didn’t wear a lab coat and got a nasty chemical burn (and went to the emergency room for it, I think he was mostly mad about the ER trip).

              There were lots of things I worked with in that lab that I only learned were dangerous, or at least, not inert, from other people in other labs.

              It was very much about his need to project an air of “cool”, coupled with a total lack of experience in any kind of leadership.

              1. JustaTech*

                Oh yeah, this was an HIV lab. We didn’t work with HIV directly, but we worked with plenty of other infectious stuff that he was *super* cavalier about.

                1. anony-lab-mouse*

                  @JustaTech – I worked in a lab where some people did work with HIV. My PI was proud of having worked in an HIV lab where they just worked with it out on a bench, no hood or goggles. She was very cavalier about it, and that bled into other people in the lab being similarly cavalier about radioactive reagents. :-| Super fun grad school experience that.

                2. Solana*

                  ….. what?! Why…. how…..?
                  I’m a lab animal attendant, and biohazard (BSL-2) is my domain. I had a guy, one of the researchers arguing with me about the PPE. You needed a bunch just to walk in the animal room, but extra gloves and sleeves on top of the lab coat to handle the animals.
                  He protested by saying, “But the sign says you only need this!”
                  “Sir, that’s just to enter the room. You need these to handle the animals.”
                  “But I’ve seen other people do it!”
                  (Are we in middle school?) “Sir, you need these.”
                  I let the supervisors know about this guy, and they emailed his PI saying that, yes, you DO need the extra PPE.
                  (I’ve had plenty of problems with this lab and always mentally roll my eyes when they need to keep cages in my domain.)

              2. Tidewater 4-1009*

                Men like that are the reason I didn’t go into trade or lab work. I don’t have enough good luck to survive a jerk like that!
                The ones who are trying to be cool guys are the worst. So insecure, all they think about is image. Hmm, that sounds familiar… anyway, if they weren’t endangering people’s lives I’d feel sorry for them.

              3. LabTechNoMore*

                I didn’t think my labwork would have been applicable to this thread, but here we are.

                I used to work with a chemical that was so toxic that if you spilled it on any part of you, there was a good chance that part would need to be amputated. Specialized gloves and PPE were required, as it would pass through nitrile/latex gloves. It would cause horrible burns and water would do nothing to wash it off–typically also needed a special neutralization gel if it got spilled on you, and a trip to the ER. (Bonus points to anyone who can Name That Chemical!)

                After several years of using it, I was accustom to it, and felt fairly comfortable (but not complacent) in its applications. I was also now in charge of training graduate students in how to use it in a teaching lab. The problem was, they typically didn’t understand the dangers involved, assumed that low concentrations meant less danger (which, ironically, can be the opposite for this particular chemical), and — for more fun — would often not report that they were handling this particular chemical, which they brought in from their lab, only for me to find out as they started unscrewing their test tubes out on a bench with no ventilation (!), not wearing lab coat or goggles (!!), using their bare hands (!?!?), and with all the nonchalance and arrogance of a freshly-minted grad student who had still not mastered pipetting. To the untrained eye, it’s actually easy to overlook the dangers of this substance due to its having the disarming quality of looking surprisingly like water, except for the part where it kills you instead of hydrating you.

                And to make matters more horrifying of this lab accident waiting to happen, the sandal-clad gloveless student incident was actually a regular occurrence in this lab, and my boss at the time didn’t want to risk step on any toes by kicking grad students out for blatant and repeated safety violations. (A case of throwing the … bare toes out with the deadly acid.) Needless to say, there were obvious systemic safety problems with the lab, and the boss, that I myself could not meaningfully address. The lab safety culture was just not there, and the formal safety measures and difficult conversations that needed to happen to address this problem was not something I could accomplish on my own.

                None of this stopped me from treating any safety violation with the seriousness that it deserved, making students stop if I learned they were handling this substance, get fully geared up, and continue. All the while explaining, in as excruciating and graphic detail as I could muster, just what these chemical burns entail, and the specific mechanisms of action for how cell death happens.

                I guess what I’m saying is, safety is safety is safety. While there are obvious systemic problems here (e.g. autocratic, fascist neo-Nazis in the Oval office and congress), it is your job to ensure a safe workplace, and that everyone is adhering to safety guidelines. It doesn’t matter how your subordinate feels about safety guidelines, what matters is that they follow them faithfully. If they cannot do that, they are endangering the health and safety of everyone else in your workplace. If you know they won’t follow these safety guidelines, then they can’t be in your workplace. You can tell them to stay home, and have the graphic-description-of-intubation speech over the phone, followed by termination once they push back (and they clearly will push back). Of course, follow your workplace’s rules for how to terminate employees, but do not compromise on your employee’s safety. I would not want one of the people who I’m responsible for to get hurt(/get coronavirus) and be left wondering if it was due to a safety guideline that I was responsible for enforcing.

                1. Lora*

                  Had a safety officer whose preferred method to teach newbies about HF / TFA was a demonstration with bone-in chicken legs from the supermarket. Apply small amount of HF to chicken in the morning. Check on it again towards the afternoon…

                2. File Herder*

                  I was flinching as I read through the symptoms, because I could guess what it was. I was screaming inside when I got to the description of just how careless your students were. “Things I Won’t Work With” should be required reading the first time anyone is caught doing this.

                  Oh yes. Original topic. Dismissal for gross misconduct. In the UK, suspension on full pay while a fair investigation is carried out, then out the door for repeated deliberate violation of clearly stated H&S policies. I may, of course, be a little intolerant of this sort of thing, being the sort of person who is extremely grateful to have never had to work with HF.

                3. Curmudgeon in California*

                  Next time some idiot gets burned, make sure to get (anonymized) pictures of the damage. Put those pictures in your training material. Do some before/after shots on other stuff like meat. Sometimes they just need to see it.

                  On the coronvirus safety, bring in the NYT obituaries from their peak.

                  If he still insists that it’s a “hoax” and won’t obey company protocols, fire him for insubordination and refusal to comply with health and safety directives. He’s had plenty of warnings.

                  Write him up, with written directives, one last time. Then when he violates it, frog march him to the door.

                4. TardyTardis*

                  Fluorine compound of some kind? (it’s notorious for being the Fun Date of the periodic table).

                5. Wintermute*

                  Hydrofluoric acid would qualify so would some of the other nasty fluorine-based compounds, anything that could generate fluorine radicals in your body.

                  Eats your bones then gives you a heart attack in the process, nasty stuff.

                  It was the neutralizing gel that gave it away, fun bonus fact, if you get it on a finger they may have to either use a superheated pin or a drill to drill through your fingernail so they can get the calcium gluconate gel down into the nail bed.

            2. Artemesia*

              This guy is not teachable or manageable on this. I would fire him today. The damage him infecting the staff and shutting you down is much greater than any possible value his part time work can bring. He is an active danger to the rest of the employees.

            3. Give me a break*

              “ The guy (my perception is that it is nearly always guys)”

              One look at any of the recent gatherings shows a nontrivial number of women.

          2. Aphrodite*

            At least the mine guy would only kill himself. The same is not true with the coronavirus.

            1. Mongrel*

              “At least the mine guy would only kill himself.”
              I dislike this sentiment as it pushes aside all the other ways that it does affect everyone else.
              Someone has to find him in whatever gooey state he’s gotten himself into.
              The mine\section of mine will probably have to be closed for a short time while the scene gets cleaned up – do his colleagues get paid?.
              There will probably be a safety enquiry which will probably end with fines and “Why didn’t you make him?” questions at a minimum.
              The worksite will probably get harder to work on as they have to introduce more checks & procedures to stop the idiots. Some people will take this as a challenge to double down.

              That’s what I’ve got off the top of my head but these things rarely happen in a vacuum.

              1. pancakes*

                I don’t read Aphrodite’s comment as suggesting that a death in a mine would happen in a vacuum of some sort. Having more safety checks after a deadly accident isn’t comparable to dying of a deadly virus or having lasting lung damage. Being somewhat inconvenienced isn’t a comparable harm.

                1. Mongrel*

                  If I mis-interpreted Aphrodite’s comment, I apologise. It’s a bit of a kneejerk reaction from too many discussions with people who think they exist in a bubble of one.

          3. CanWeHaveSinglePayerNowPlease?*

            I have a cousin who’s a construction executive, he started out as a construction manager.

            Had a guy on his site who was always using power tools with frayed cords, had been warned about it several times. One day my cousin saw him using a saw with a frayed cord, unplugged it, cut through the cord with his knife, and said to the guy, “Looks like you need to replace that cord.”

            He wasn’t beloved but he had a safe site.

            1. UKDancer*

              It’s unbelievable. My great uncle lost 2 fingers in an industrial accident in the 1950s because at that point there weren’t the same level of protections on the devices he was using.

              He was health and safety officer on the site in later life and he made sure everyone took all the necessary precautions because being short 2 fingers was something he wanted to prevent others from having to go through.

                1. bluephone*

                  Call the Midwife (which primarily is about being pregnant and giving birth in a working class post-WWII London neighborhood) even had an episode about how terrible an industrial accident was before contemporary rules and regulations: no water on site to manage people’s injuries (so a father-to-be was permanently blinded and had been fired by the company), no register of who was working that day (so no way to track everyone or even know if you had more victims), etc.

                  Rules are very much written in blood :(

                2. Nikki*

                  I’m thinking of “The Radium Girls” by Kate Moore. It’s a fantastic book but it’s such a downer. Really drives home how callous industry can be about worker safety and how the things we take for granted (like OSHA!) were only created because people suffered horrible fates and refused to be silent about it.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            This is an interesting article indeed. I wonder just how many people suffering from an excessive need to be themselves would have what it takes to turn that part of themselves around. Given that it requires acknowledging that you’re not perfect and that the person trying to help you change has knowledge and experience that you’re obviously lacking, I doubt it’s really easy to turn such people round.
            In the case of the CEO who never praises his employees, I would also suspect that he had all kinds of secret insecurities, needing a lot of praise for himself, and not wanting to praise others because of wanting all the glory for himself.

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      Well, his head is SOMEWHERE… I wasn’t going to pick ‘the sand’ as the location, though!
      You’re much more polite!

      1. LogicalOne*

        ROFL! IndustriousLabRat, I absolutely love your comment. I needed a laugh this morning. Thanks! :D

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            I always say “This person needs to conduct a craniorectal extraction.”

    2. TardyTardis*

      Oh, yes, this guy I would fire with extreme prejudice and have him escorted out–or better yet, his desk moved out to the parking lot and set on fire (this supposedly really happened somewhere…).

    1. Hills to Die on*

      “I can’t get caught violating the policies and guidelines. I’ll leave my vacation photos off of Instagram until this blows over. Also, I’ll be super vigilant about listening for someone approaching my desk and only put on my mask On at that time. I’ll be extremely unproductive but it will be soooo worth it.”
      Fire him.

      1. BeautifulVoid*

        This is exactly what will happen. He’s not going to ever comply with guidelines and policies, he’s just going to get sneakier at hiding his refusal to comply.

        1. Amaranth*

          He sounds like the kind of guy who will use even fewer precautions now “on principal” because he feels challenged.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, frankly, he really should’ve been fired before this point. By letting it go on this long you’re demoralizing your staff and tacitly minimizing the severity of what he’s been doing. He should’ve been fired yesterday.

      3. Mayflower*

        I bet he will also show up in a fishnet or crocher mask, and use the word “technically” when confronted about it.

      1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        Some people, not many but some, need a massive Come to Odin moment to realize their behavior isn’t acceptable. For whatever reason they may not have ever been forced to accept responsibility for their actions, or even faced tangible consequences for them. Being told flatly, “you will lose your job if this behavior continues” or even “if you do not agree with our current company policies you will be escorted from the building at the end of this conversation” may be enough to get someone like this to pull their head from their keister.

        The leash needs to be short, though. If he laughs, blows it off, or even rolls his eyes the next step needs to be termination.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          LOL, if the “Come to Odin” involved losing an eye, dude might finally pay attention.

            1. Coder von Frankenstein*

              Ugh – autocomplete inserting apostrophes where they don’t belong. I mostly like the comment system here, but I do wish there was an editing period.

            1. Donkey Hotey*

              “If you’ll turn to page two, you’ll see that part of the performance improvement plan…”

            2. Luke*

              The Tree of Woe: just a quiet little place where you can go and think about what you did…

        2. Ominous Adversary*

          And it may not be enough. LW would be gambling the safety and morale of her other employees on this person’s ability to let the Allfather’s wisdom sink in. And her track record up until now has been that he has NO consequences other than being told again.

          Getting fired is a pretty solid Come to Odin moment.

        3. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Yes, but how can you be sure he’s not traveling and hiding it from you? IMHO he should be fired now.
          There are many situations where people deserve the benefit of doubt and one more chance. This is not one.

        4. Artemesia*

          But this guy will likely pretend to comply but constantly not comply — and he will certainly travel, go to bars and generally threaten the health of those he works with. Fire him now.

      2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        They can enforce behavior in the office. But there is simply, absolutely, fundamentally no way that they will be able to trust him to comply with the off-the-job policies. Sooner or later he is going to catch it at one of his hotspot jaunts, or the grocery store he found that doesn’t require masks, or even at a covid party so he can “get his herd immunity.” And then he’s going to go to work with a mild fever because “it’s just a flu” and he needs the money.

    2. Aphrodite*

      Agreed. Except I would not talk to him again nor give him another chance. He’s already had at least two chances and likely more. He’s giving you all his middle finger and apparently your company would rather say “now, now” than do what needs to be done immediately. I’d also make it clear to him as you say “get out” that he would absolutely not be eligible for re-hire and that if he listed your company as a reference that is exactly what would be said.

      This virus is far too serious for anything less. It’s a potential weapon of death.

  1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Honestly, I think you should be prepared to fire him.

    Yep, Insubordination. It’s up to you whether you fight his unemployment claim or not, but there’s no requirement to let him kill anyone in your office.

    1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

      Yes, this. Honestly, it doesn’t matter that he thinks the virus is a hoax. If he is so willing to deliberately disobey company policy on this, what other policies is he ignoring? He sounds like a bad employee in general, honestly. Add to that that he is deliberately putting other people’s health at risk, and I don’t see how you can justify keeping him on.

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        Agreed. I work with one or two people who think that the virus issue is overblown. But when they’re in the office they practice distancing and mask-wearing. Not because they believe in it, but because they’ve been requested to do so by management and they comply with management’s requests.

        That’s what it comes down to.

        1. Ann Onny Muss*

          I work in a politically conservative industry. I can guarantee some of my coworkers think this pandemic is being blown out of proportion. But when corporate policy boils down to “wear a damn mask or face disciplinary action (including termination)” they wear the mask and practice social distancing. They realize whatever their feelings are on the matter, now is not a good time to lose your job.

          1. Chinook*

            This is also how we convince some church members to follow the rules (including no singing – I miss even the over-the-top ones) – if you don’t follow them, you can’t participate or we risk being shut down. I even joke that, if the Bishop issued a rule that you have to stand on one foot before entering, most of us would only ask which one just to be allowed to attend.

            1. whingedrinking*

              We’re currently bringing students back in (private adult language education, not kids) and we’re being extremely cautious. To the point that the rule is that more than one person in a classroom = everybody in there is wearing a mask. I’ve been able to plead the need for a face shield instead because I’m teaching pronunciation, which simply cannot be done without students being able to see your lips. And my students are still masked, which makes it hard for me to see what they’re doing wrong when they can’t say “red lorry yellow lorry”.
              The situation suuuuuuucks. And after week one of this, we all received an extremely stern email to the effect of “masks or GTFO, we’re only allowed to be on campus because we swore blind to follow the Ministry of Health’s guidelines, so suck it up”. Since then everyone has been in strict compliance.

              1. Chinook*

                Face shields make a great alternative to masks for the reason you describe. I wish they were more accepted and studied (which would in turn make them accepted). Quebec talks about masks with plasti portins over the mouth for visibility.

                1. Harper the Other One*

                  I’m in Nova Scotia and a local tailor has been making masks with a plastic insert! We bought one for my husband because he works with several people who are hard of hearing.

                2. else*

                  There was a recent news story about an outbreak in Switzerland – a number of people who just wore face shields got COVID, while nobody who wore either a mask or faceshield and mask did. So. There is that.

              2. Lizzo*

                @whinge is there a way to record videos of yourself unmasked doing the pronunciation thing and then play those videos back to your students? Is there an option for them to video record themselves outside of class so you can provide feedback?
                It’s not ideal (what is these days?) but it could be an improvement!

                1. pancakes*

                  Good idea. Some online dictionaries have short audio clips as a pronunciation guide and they can be very helpful. Being able to replay a word or phrase as many times as necessary to really get it might be preferable to asking a teacher to repeat it.

                2. whingedrinking*

                  Honestly it would be better just to do the whole thing online – I don’t have to be masked, they don’t have to be masked, and the webcam is a really useful tool in some ways because I can lean right in for an extreme closeup on my mouth without having to actually get in anyone’s face. But we’re trying to keep the campus open and the students have said they prefer to be there in person, so we’re masking and keeping social distance in the classroom and also letting people Zoom in. It’s…challenging. But these are challenging times, I suppose.

        2. Caroline Bowman*

          Yes this totally. I know various people who genuinely believe it’s all a hoax or that it’s overblown, BUT here’s the thing; they wear the mask, the respect social distancing rules and they seem to wash their hands / sanitise as frequently as is advised. We cannot travel any distance, so that aspect is moot, but that’s the thing; you are entitled 100% to disagree with a rule, you can moan endlessly about it privately, but either do it or leave the job because that’s the rule and that’s the end of it.

          It’s helped me through various things I have privately thought are utter rubbish (not to do with Covid 19), just to say ”is X important enough to me to deal with Y? If yes, then I go along to get along. If no, well then I must accept the consequences with full understanding. Saying ”yeah, yeah and then just passively not bothering / not complying / ignoring the regulations is deeply irritating. I don’t blame the OP for being really frustrated.

        3. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I was thinking about that when I was reading this – and I realized that I’ve worked at some places with some really really weird policies and procedures that didn’t make any sense or were badly though out, and I still followed them because that’s what you do when you work someplace. You follow the rules. So there are probably other issues with this guy that are less apparent.

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            Years ago I worked on a site where we had to wear all kinds of flame retardant clothing even though we were literally miles away from anyone doing hot work (meaning any kind of task that might cause a fire). It was really pointless and counter productive because we were doing manual labour in an open field with no shade and at least one person was taken to hospital with heat stroke, but we were monitored to make sure we compiled with the PPE rules and the moment someone was observed working without some competent work was stopped and we’d all get lectured.

            In my view it was totally unnecessary to wear all that stuff in the circumstances, but I did it anyway because I wanted to keep the job.

      2. JessaB*

        I think the OP needs to add to the conversation “I understand you think it’s a hoax. It doesn’t matter. Even if there wasn’t COVID if we required masks for safety and you didn’t wear them you’d be in trouble. Hoax or not right now your job requires this mask.”

        Dunno if it would help but he has to understand that his belief doesn’t matter, you’re a private business with rules.

        1. Anon for work here*

          I would actually not recommend doing that. His personal beliefs aren’t the work-relevant problem here, it’s his actions, and what you don’t want is to give him grounds for action, however irrelevant, after his potential termination. If he fully believed in pandemic’s impact and still did all these things, your actions should be the same (though I can’t for the life of me see that actually happening). It’s also just not up for debate. This is the policy and these are the repercussions for continually not following it. Full stop.

          1. animaniactoo*

            When his personal beliefs drive his resistance to the work requirements, it can be worth saying “This is not because of your personal beliefs, your personal beliefs are beside the point. These are the work requirements and we are allowed to require them the same as we are allowed to require you to wear a 3-piece suit every day.”

    2. Tiny Magnolia*

      Yes. From a legal liability standpoint, what *would* happen if someone in your office became ill or died? What about the financial impact of shutting the business down for two weeks for quarantine if this happens? He can go get a job at the Winn Dixie where they’re not requiring masks.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        Down here in Floriduh they are going to start requiring masks!

        1. bluephone*

          I live in PA, in a county that was particularly hard hit by COVID in the beginning so not only did we shut down a few weeks before the entire state (and stayed shut down longer), we also first encouraged masks early on and then required them fairly early. In recap: I still can’t believe there are whole states out there that STILL haven’t required masks at all!!! “But we don’t have as many cases as New York or The Big Scary City!!!” I don’t care, and the virus doesn’t care AND TRAVELS VIA RESPIRATORY CHANNELS.

          Ugh, sorry, I know there are lot of voters in those head-in-the-sand states who wish their leaders were more proactive and less ignorant but in honor of my quarantine-induced mental health: put a GD mask and wash your hands, you germ-ridden monsters.

          1. Anononon*

            I’m in another suburban county of Philly, and every time I have to run an errand, I’m so happy that I live in an area that is generally listening to the guidance and wearing masks.

            1. bluephone*

              [waves hello from a 6-foot plus distance] Hello and stay safe out there <3 Even in my area, where you rarely see people NOT wearing masks in businesses, there are lot of people who are like "how soon can we run Wolf and Levine out of town for impinging on MAH FREEDOMS!!11!!!" on Facebook, around the dinner table, etc :-(

              Ugh :(

              1. David*

                Wolf has gotten this about as close to “right” as can be expected given the constraints under which he was operating. He might be a wishy-washy centrist, but he’s got my vote for as long as he cares to run for public office.

                That he’s managed to get most rural areas on board with the program, doubts notwithstanding, is really quite impressive. I’m very glad to be in the Philly area instead of Florida, from which a coworker returned shortly before the “shortcomings” of their reopening became apparent.

                As to OP, fire him. Don’t even bother warning him, just fire him. Maybe try to catch him out saying he hasn’t adhered to company policy so you can fight the inevitable unemployment claim, but he needs to be out on his ass.

                1. Darsynia*

                  Pittsburgher here–the number of my close friends and acquaintances who are behaving ‘just as normal, but with masks on’ are driving me crazy with their vacations, amusement parks, and restaurants, but I draw the line at not wearing masks. Your personal life is where you cry about tyranny and your freedoms–at work, you follow your procedures, or you get fired, ’nuff said. Bowing to the political pressures as a workplace is a great way to cause a divide so deep that you end up with an uncomfortable work environment for everyone involved.

                  Following the health guidelines should be considered politically neutral anyway, and so should doing what your boss tells you, in this instance.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            My cousin is in PA (I’m in CT) and I remember her telling me what was going on there as I was recovering from surgery. Her county was early in requiring masks, too, and they’re still required. I’ll be visiting her soon and because of their requirements (and knowing she and her husband are very diligent about masks, social distancing, staying home, etc.) I’m not worried about visiting.

            And yes, it absolutely blows my mind that less than half the states (as of last week) have a mask mandate. I just don’t get it. And I have someone on my Facebook page, who I should just unfriend at this point, who was going on and on on one of my posts about how masks don’t work, and why isn’t it OK to go to church and sing, but protests and rioting are OK. She ended with: “It’s another way for the control of state government to interfere in our daily lives!”

            1. pancakes*

              It doesn’t seem likely that people like your Facebook friend register silence as disagreement or disapproval. People with extremist views—on a range of topics, not just this one—often seem to believe their views are more widespread than they in fact are.

        2. Chinook*

          Quebec has required it and already had one guy arrested for refusing to to leave a coffee place after refusing to wear a mask. It wasn’t the lack of mask that got him arrested but his refusal to leave a place that refused him service for not following the law and store policy. This is the same province that has banned face coverings for religious purposes (as well as all other religious symbols) under certain circumstances, so you can guess that this decision was not taken lightly. But, their numbers were out of control from the start.

        3. Kelly*

          I’m in Wisconsin in the only county so far that has made masks mandatory. Given how the courts have ruled to not allow our governor and state heath department to do what is best to control the spread, it’s now up to individual counties and cities to issue orders making mask wearing mandatory. It wasn’t a big deal for me because I’ve been wearing one since April when out of the house and my employer made it mandatory for working on site mid June.

          Even before the county order went into effect last week, the percentage of people wearing masks in stores where it was required as a condition of entry was fairly high starting in late June. That’s when the numbers of new cases started to get really high. Something seems to be working, either wearing masks, social distancing, closing bars, or other measures to slow the spread of COVID, because the number of new cases are starting to come down.

          Now the problem is that other neighboring counties aren’t taking it as seriously, so the growth rate is increasing. My dad’s house is an hour north of me where there is no county mandate and most businesses have been slow to take preventative measures, including requiring employees to wear masks and installing plexiglass shields at points of service. We went to get carryout from a local restaurant this week and no employees were wearing masks. I finally told him this weekend that I won’t be doing any shopping for him in town because I don’t feel comfortable shopping in businesses that are not making an effort to protect their workers and customers from this pandemic. I’ll pick up everything where I live and if he needs something, it’s up to him to get it. Yeah, that even includes the liquor store, so someone else will have to go buy alcohol for his guests. When I didn’t make an exemption for that category, he knew I was serious about not wanting to risk being exposed.

          1. Penny Parker*

            I’m from Wisconsin, too. Our county board’s Executive and Legislative Committee met last night and refused to order a mask mandate. I called one of the supervisors before the vote and he told me it was “illegal” for a county to issue a mask mandate, that counties did not have “home rule”. I am so disgusted with the local supervisors! I am in the Dells area and we have so many tourists here and they are all — as usual but worse now — shitting on the locals. I am scared to leave my property. I was fortunate because the only currently working member of this household was able to get an ADA accommodation (thanks to info I read on Ask A Manager!) and does not come into contact with other employees.

            Wisconsin has the fastest growing spread (not the highest numbers) of covid in the nation, and the only ones who can take any action are the state legislators, and they are out of session and refuse to return until 2021. I would absolutely hate to be employed in Wisconsin right now without an ADA accommodation.


      2. Anon-mama*

        My first responder in-law is in a hotspot. Their coworker had a positive spouse at home, and the coworker still came in for a 24-hour shift. Of course coworker only got tested (positive) after coughing all over the building. In-law was negative after the exposure. No consequences (other than the illness and possible social effects) will happen to co-worker. I think people are working on a law so that you can’t hold co-workers/company liable, because otherwise they’d have to do this for flu and other conditions. IANAL, but I’d be curious to see if there are workman’s comp claims that pass if it can be demonstrated the company didn’t take steps to prevent transmission. But it sounds like OP is.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          If a company’s punitive sick leave policies provide an incentive to go in while contagious, they SHOULD be held liable, and it disgusts me that anyone is trying to pass a law prohibiting this.

      3. Delta Delta*

        That depends. There are some states considering adding a COVID-19 diagnosis as per se liability on an employer for workers’ comp purposes, meaning there’s a rebuttable presumption that if someone gets that diagnosis they got it at work. If that kind of law is passed in this employer’s state, they could be on the hook for his and other people’s diagnoses.

        That said, even if their state doesn’t have this (and frankly, it sounds like a terrible law for a lot of reasons), if someone gets sick and can reasonably link it to this co-worker, there’s room for a comp claim.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Considering the complete lack of contact tracing happening, that seems like a bad idea. You wouldn’t be able to prove that someone picked up the virus at work. Especially considering how many people will flat out lie about where they’ve been and who they’ve seen because, like OP’s employee, they don’t take this seriously.

          1. Lady Heather*

            I’d be for a ‘if the employee gets covid, and they can demonstrate safety guidelines were violated at work, it is the duty of the employer to demonstate the employee was exposed elsewhere’.

            1. Lady Heather*

              I think I mean ‘burden’ instead of ‘duty’ there. All my legalese comes from watching Suits, so it’s spotty.

          2. pancakes*

            What someone will or will not be able to prove always depends on the facts of their circumstances. Lawyers and judges are not unfamiliar with the idea that people can and do lie in depositions or in court.

            1. Artemesia*

              The GOP have made protecting nursing homes and businesses from liability over COVID even if they are negligent an important mission — but not of course providing a plan to control the virus.

          3. boop the first*

            That’s fair for that first individual case, sure.

            But it’s pretty obvious if it’s a work-based spread if multiple people in the same workplace come down with it in batches. There’s no question that the 150+ cases in JoeBlo’s FoodFactory would be work dependent. It would be a matter of finding patient zero and excluding them.

      4. Wintermute*

        In general you can’t prove “but for” his actions you wouldn’t have had anyone get sick, hell you couldn’t even prove he was the one that got anyone sick, so any kind of legal action is a nonstarter.

        This is strictly a moral issue, not really a legal one. The only situation the law comes in is when someone KNOWS themselves to be infected and intentionally exposes someone. Then again thanks to HIV activists there are actually only a few states where that is specifically illegal in the others it’s just a “oh well, should have protected yourself better”.

    3. Marny*

      Seriously. For some reason, people seem to think “coronoavirus” is a get-out-of-jail-free card for being insubordinate. And employers seem to be treading way too lightly in this one area. In any other circumstance, you have to follow company policy or be fired. This is no different. And arguably compliance here is more important (since it relates to jeopardizing health) than some of the other policies your employees have to follow.

      1. AKchic*

        People already use religion as their excuse to not do things, or to do things at work (i.e., discriminate against specific groups of people).

        COVID denial has multiple layers/flavors. Politics, religion, and stupidity are all rolled into it.

        1. Chinook*

          How does religion play into the denial? I am curious as Catholics bought into Covid from day one. I guess it helps that Italy was hit hard and many relgious there died as well as the image of the pope in an empty and rainy St. Peter’s Square helped that hit home? But I have never understood the religious people who think it a hoax. After all, the black plague hit durjng a highly religious time and didn’t only hit non-believers.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Religion is highly politicized here in the Deep South, USA. Entire congregations were meeting regardless of COVID, and in my state for one, an entire hotspot was created in one city with a high concentration of this particular denomination’s churches.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              +1 to this. You can not understand the US South if you do not include evangelicals in your thought processes, prominently. Minority, but vocal.

            2. AKchic*

              Every state has at least one politically-minded religious organization. It becomes very apparent very quickly.
              The idea of “white jesus” that some extreme types hold up (prosperity gospel types, especially) seems to get the most play.

              But they have intertwined their religion and politics. To the point that they openly state that their deity tells them to run for political office(s) and that they will “lead” with their deity/faith in mind (which goes against separation of church and state). Enough of them get elected because of low voter turn-outs that it’s become a huge problem.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                I thought separation of church and state meant that the state can neither endorse nor prohibit a religion, not that someone holding office who is religious has to make decisions without considering their religious beliefs.

                (And I ask that as someone who is deeply troubled by the politicization of religion in the US.)

                1. pamela voorhees*

                  I think the problem is that religious lawmakers of that type will then try to pass laws based on their interpretation of religion, which very quickly turns into tacit endorsement of said religion (and/or explicit banning of others). In theory it’s not a problem to lead based on religious beliefs, but in practice one usually leads to the other.

                2. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  @pamela voorhees, true — if you’re a Big-Endian politician but your constituents are Little-Endians, then a good politician votes as a Little-Endian. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the things you believe as a Big-Endian to help inform your decisions, but at the end of the day you should vote/decide/legislate as your constituents would. If you can’t do that without violating your faith…then you shouldn’t be in office.

                  @Mookie, yes, and I agree with Alison’s take on that: if you’re never going to be alone with a woman you work with, you sure as hell better never be alone with a man you work with either.

            3. Kyrielle*

              We had a cluster tied to a single specific church building here, it was half the new cases for the state on one of the days (and added new ones on some others).

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Deaths were peaking here in France around Easter, yet quite a few Catholics went ahead and attended mass anyway. Only the priests were fined for breaking lockdown, which I think is absolutely scandalous when so many others were fined just for minor things. Like a friend from the US, living in France, fined for not socially distancing from her live-in BF. She didn’t have ID showing her French address on her right then, only a document with her US address, so she and her BF were fined for walking arm-in-arm outdoors.

      2. Anne Elliot*

        This is why I think it is helpful to think of these regulations, and represent them in conversation, as health and safety regs (which they are). Safety regs are just “do this thing; we don’t care if you like it, believe in it or even understand it; it’s a safety reg and you’ll just do it, all the time and every time.”

        If you’re on the construction site, you have to have a hard hat on. If you’re working the line in a machinery shop, you have to have safety glasses on. If you’re on the road crew, you have to have a safety vest on. If you’re in the lab, you have to have closed-toed shoes on. Etc., etc. It’s not an argument or a debate. That’s kind of the beauty of safety regulations. And to me there is also privilege operating here — only a person who is not usually daily subject to the immutable and unyielding requirements of safety regs could dispute them on grounds of personal “freedom.”

        So for me this would be a very simple conversation: “This is a safety regulation. I am not actually interested in how you feel about it on a personal level, I need your commitment to comply with it every time and all the time, and without prompting, and if you can’t do that then you can’t work here.”

      3. Kelly*

        I can see both sides of how criticism of your workplace’s polices during this time could be read as insubordination.

        I’ll be honest here in that my employer kind of has had no viable long term plan when it comes to on site staffing. Since March, it’s been about meeting short term needs and ignoring the real equity concerns that placing the burden of staffing “essential” onsite services has put on a small group of people. Areas without leadership to advocate for their needs have also been left out and assigned to other work as assigned since March. Now that we are slowly starting to expand services, the people best able to staff those areas have been assigned to other areas. There’s been pushback from staff who have been working remotely for 3 months who have been voluntold that they have to come in to work in an area that is outside of their job description. I would consider that insuborination because some of their colleagues were told that they had to work in areas outside of their home departments just to get hours. They haven’t gone and whined to our largely ineffectual staff support groups about having to work onsite in a workspace that’s new to them. People working onsite are not getting paid any extra for coming in and risking exposure.

        I volunteered to work on site a couple days a week when this all started, because I knew I would get bored working remotely 5 days a week. I also figured that someone from other divisions needed to step up just so it seemed like we were all in it together. I pushed for increased services out of my assigned home location, which ended up paying off. We were able to get more access to our spaces earlier than other locations and were marked as exempt from being voluntold to work in other areas. I know some people, including my boss, are very appreciative and grateful. We are in a better place to reopen for fall once students return than other locations because I stepped up to help out when no one else would.

    4. Quinalla*

      Yup, fire him or maybe one last conversation, but I think it is a waste of time unless it is to show other employees that you are being fair. There are plenty of people I work with in the construction industry that believe COVID is overblow, etc. and they are still following safety procedures that their companies require. I understand how much it sucks that this whole thing has become politicized, but treat it like any other insubordination/safety issue and be done with it.

    5. Chinook*

      This is a perfect exampke why the charge of insubordination exists. It may seem extreme to fire a guy for not wearing a mask, but it makes perfect eense to fire him for not following rules. After all, if this thecrule you catch him breaking, what rules is getting away with breaking?

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        In these times, it is not extreme to fire someone for not wearing a mask. It’s extreme to keep letting them get away with endangering everyone in the office.

  2. The Original K.*

    I was reading this like “Oh, he gotta go,” so I’m glad to see that that was the advice.

    1. Yikes*

      Ditto. If you’re the boss, get rid of him. Problem solved. Dangerous problem solved.

  3. No Tribble At All*

    FIRE HIS ASS. This is such a flagrant disregard of any and all reasonable precautions that I’m struggling to think of an equivalent. This is a gas station attendant who smokes; a nurse who thinks handwashing is a hoax; a pilot who doesn’t follow air traffic control. He’s not just a danger to himself, he’s a danger to everyone around him. Multiple employees have told you they feel unsafe working around him. Is he really worth everyone else?

    1. EPLawyer*

      this is key. Why are you tiptoeing around a part-time employee with an atittude at the expenses of all your other employees who presumably follow the rules whether they agree with them or not?

      You are risking losing good people (and there are options out there for good people) just to avoid getting rid of this PITA.

      1. Another name*

        Yep this. And average employees who follow rules and are stuck putting up with this guy for now will remember down the road when they have more opportunities that they expressed their concerns about working with this guy and nothing happened. Then you’ll be replacing more people.

        MUCH better to just cut this part timer loose for insubordination and violating company policy.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*


          One of my coworkers wasn’t taking the virus seriously. They ended up contracting COVID and exposing all of us. We all had to go get tested and quarantine while we waited for our results. And you know what happened? Two people quit because they had already been exasperated by this employee not following the guidelines and not being reined in. So now we’re down the person with COVID while they recover, and we’re down two additional positions because management didn’t take other employees’ concerns about the careless person seriously enough.

          Don’t be like my mangers, OP. Get this right the first time and fire the employee who is showing contempt for his coworkers and his company’s policies.

      2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        Exactly. Who is more important? Your one employee that is openly fighting the corporation’s current rules or the rest of the employees who want a safe workplace?

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          This. I guaran-damn-tee at least some of this guy’s coworkers are right now agonizing over whether they’re going to need to quit because he’s making their workspace unsafe, and management hasn’t done anything about it.

      3. Important Moi*

        Human Nature seems to convince management that the employees who don’t complain or make a fuss won’t leave, so of course, they have to placate the squeaky wheel! The other folks aren’t leaving anyway! People won’t like my phrasing, but I’ve seen it happen A LOT.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*


          By *not* firing assholes, you are in effect getting rid of good employees. So your choice is: which people do you want to keep?

    2. Works in IT*

      As someone with a parent who has a LOT of the risk factors for dying of coronavirus if they get it, I would already be outraged if my manager was not reporting a coworker’s vacations to force him to quarantine, particularly if said coworker was convinced the coronavirus is a hoax. Report the guy who is knowingly violating company policy and be done with it. If he wants to treat the coronavirus like a hoax, he can go work at one of the bars that are refusing to serve people who are wearing masks.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


      Don’t stop there; I think the rest of him is just as much of a problem!

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        Actually, do stop there, please…at least at first. I’d really like to know what the paperwork would look like…

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Well, it is his stupid face that’s the biggest transmission vector. Gotta get at least that part.

    4. TheMonkey*

      As a real life example: I had a licensed veterinary technician who didn’t want to get a flu shot because…she didn’t believe in vaccines? (Still baffled by that one)
      It was a requirement from our parent organization that all employees needed to have them unless they had a documented medical reason not to. The conversation was about the requirements of the job, rather than her own personal belief system.

      1. MayLou*

        You don’t have to BELIEVE in vaccines, you just have to RECEIVE the vaccine. It could almost be a company slogan.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Tell the recipient that it’s a Gen-u-ine Placebo Brand Vaccine.

        2. This is She*

          I am not his biggest fan, but it reminds me of something I heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson say on a talk show (Colbert?): “That’s the great thing about science — you don’t have to believe it for it to be true!”

          1. Artemesia*

            After the Challenger explosion the great physicist Feynman who was on the panel investigating and discovered the engineers KNEW it was unsafe to launch but were overruled by bureaucrats who insisted the risk was one in a million said ‘You can’t fool nature.’ The virus does not care what you think. Launch with O-rings when they are too cold to flex and you blow up the rocket. The basic laws of science don’t change because of PR memos or optimistic pep talks or the need of President Reagan to talk about a ‘Teacher in the sky’ during the SOTU.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        The weathervane crazies on my Facebook feed (People I keep on so I can remind myself how misguided people I actually know in real life can get) are already ramping up the anti-vacc stuff in anticipation of a Corona Virus vaccination. So if we ever do get a working vaccine that is gonna be a whole thing where all these people will insist it infringes on their rights to get it. And I’m sure most companies will want all their employees to get it so they can carry on with business, so that is gonna be a big hot mess.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m not convinced that the benefit of remembering these people exist outweighs the risks of them being flattered and/or emboldened by their audience. Have you considered unfollowing them and, say, leaving a post-it note on your desk instead?

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I can’t wait to see them be fired for not getting the vaccine! :D BTW, I’m looking for a job… and I will be first in line to get the vaccine even though I’ll get sick if it contains egg.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            oh… expletive. My son and I have near-life-threatening reactions to egg yolk. I did a happy dance at the pharmacy when non-egg based vaxes became widely available; the two years earlier non-egg weren’t available at all.

            I had not thought that part through. Crap.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              You and your son are why the reasonable of us will get a vaccine — I want to protect me, but I also want to protect other people! Ergo, I wear a mask and get vaccines even though I hate needles.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              It won’t be egg based I bet. Flu viruses grow in eggs well because they’re naturally found in birds. I think an immortal cell line would likely be a growth medium for Coronavirus, which are usually human cell lines that have very low chance of allergic reaction.

          2. Third or Nothing!*

            Right there with you. I’m very very fortunate that my egg allergy is not life threatening. It’s bad enough to avoid the yearly flu vaccine, but not bad enough to avoid a COVID vaccine.

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              Mine is the same. I tried getting flu shots but each year my symptoms were worse… then my employer got the egg-free Flublok. I still had to be vigilant when I got it and make sure they were giving me the right one!
              I’m sorry Jules. Here’s hoping it doesn’t have egg!

          3. MJ*

            From what I’ve read a vaccine for SARS-CoD-2 cannot be grown in an egg as flu vaccines are. This is one of the problems facing high production of a vaccine (although the egg way for flu takes considerable time). No idea about other allergens.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          Even if the vaccine is only good for three months, I’ll get my shot every quarter. Why? One of my roommates is immune compromised, and everyone at my house counts as high risk.

          Yes, people who are allergic to egg are in a hard spot if it has egg in it.

          I hope it doesn’t have egg or other allergens.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Probably won’t. Flu viruses grow well in eggs because their natural reservoir are avians. Coronaviruses have an entirely different genetic structure and reservoir. They’ll likely use an immortal cell line to grow the vaccine.

    5. tinybutfierce*

      Hardcore agree. If I was one of this dude’s coworkers and saw him getting away with endangering everyone around him like this? I’d be looking for somewhere else to work as soon as humanly possibly. OP’s job is endangering ALL of their other employees for the sake of coddling this one asshat right now.

    6. Nicole*

      I definitely wouldn’t be coming back to work if I knew this ass would be there! My safety > whatever conspiracy BS he wants to believe.

    1. Anon for this*

      Are you implying part-time employees have no value? Or at least less value than full-time employees?

      1. Mediamaven*

        He isn’t doing that. He’s suggesting that as a part time employee with no benefits the company already has less of an investment. Focus on the point of the letter.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        As people? No, part-time employees don’t have less value.

        To the company? Probably…it can be really circumstantial and role-dependent, but probably, in order to get business done, the company needs the full time employees more. Which does not make them inherently less valuable as people.

          1. It's mce w*

            They’re saying that there are other workers out there who understand the seriousness of COVID-19 and will be respectful and mindful of policies and their colleagues.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, I really don’t like the implication that PT employees are less valuable as people.

          This guy’s behavior, though… he is making himself less valuable as a person.

          1. Amaranth*

            I take it as losing a part time employee is less likely to stop a company’s productivity in its tracks, unless he’s in a critical on-call role for emergencies. Even if this guy was tops in his field, his attitude would prompt me to replace him. Well, okay, if tops, I’d try to find a way to make him completely remote before canning him.

      3. Triumphant Fox*

        No – it’s that so many people are out of work, there are a lot of good people who would jump at this job before he hits the door. You’re not even putting this guy at risk for not having health insurance, etc. since he was part-time anyway. The employer has a lot of options right now, no reason to stick with a problem employee.

      4. KRM*

        No, they’re saying that lots of people are looking for jobs and this idiot can and should be fired and they can hire someone who will follow the rules.

      5. Diahann Carroll*

        Yes, part-time employees often do have less value to a company than full-time employees. That’s why many are paid less and have little to no benefits. It’s much easier to let them go and replace them than it is to replace a full-time employee who is oftentimes doing more high-level work at a higher pay rate.

          1. David*

            The median part-time wage is less than $10 US per hour. The median full time wage works out to close to $22.

            That should be enough, beyond just simple logic, to justify the “assumption” he’s making.

            Part-time work is almost always part-time precisely because it’s cheaper to have 2-3 individuals doing it without benefits than a single full-time worker with benefits. That can only be true if the training costs and turnover costs together are lower than the cost of providing benefits to one person, which can only be true if the position is easy to fill and quick to teach.

      6. New Jack Karyn*

        A part-time worker who will follow the COVID-19 protocols is more valuable than one who will not. And now that there’s a lot of unemployment, it might not be too difficult to find a decent part-time worker.

    2. Mama Bear*

      I agree. He’s only PT and is putting your FT employees at risk. I strongly suspect you could 1. do OK without him or 2. replace him quickly.

    3. cncx*

      yup this is where i was at…he’s part time and endangering full time employees and being rude about it…nah he needed to go yesterday

  4. Mid*

    I’d also loop in any legal counsel your company has, if they aren’t already in the loop, because he’s probably going to sue. It’s not going to go anywhere, but he’s probably going to anyway.

    1. Observer*

      Loop in legal counsel – not in “what should we do” but “just FYI, we may have a law suit heading our way.”

      Think about this – what would you rather risk a frivolous law suit you will win over firing someone who blatantly flouted clearly stated rules that are perfectly legal? Or a law suit from someone who got sick and is blaming this employee and the fact that he was allowed to get away with this nonsense? Even if you win, that’s going to be more expensive to defend and it’s going to be MUCH worse PR.

      Also, what kind of PR is going to be worse for you? You fired someone who simply won’t follow the rules or you let a jerk get away with being rude and obnoxious to people?

      1. Nesprin*

        I mean “company declines to make employee wear mask, resulting in an outbreak that kills 5” followed by “wrongful death suit against company” reads worse to me than “company sued by disgruntled employee for insisting he wear mask”.

        1. Wintermute*

          There’s really no grounds for that. Remember in many states INTENTIONALLY exposing someone to a disease, let alone accidentally, is not illegal (sometimes they can charge it as misdemeanor assault, or even felony, it depends where you are), and you’d never prove he was the vector or that without his actions you wouldn’t have gotten it.

          Companies are perfectly legally sound in being as lax as they like as long as they comply with public health regulations, which is why our power as consumers, advocates and employees in groups is so important.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In case this is not clear: Firing him would not break any law. People can sue over anything if they have the time and money, but I want to make sure it’s clear this firing would be perfectly legal. There’s nothing iffy about it.

      1. Sara M*

        Add me to the count: I think there’s no other option than to fire him. Even IF he said he’d follow all requirements, you know you can’t trust him to.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        To put it another way, he might sue over the firing, but his lawyer will be charging him hourly rather than on a contingency fee basis.

        1. Anononon*

          Hah. At a prior job, we generally only took employment cases on a contingent fee basis because we only took the most clear cut cases. If my boss turned down a potential client, he would tell them they should continue to call around but to be extremely wary of any firm offering to take their case for an up front fee.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          “he might sue […] but his lawyer will be charging him hourly”

          This is delicious and elegant wording and made me laugh out loud. Fully accurate.

        3. Momma here*

          Sometimes, even it there is a true legal wrong to be contested, it’s just not economically seasible for the suit to go on unless there is lot’s of money to throw down a hole just to make a point.
          I was in the position of pressing a suit for medical malpractice on behalf of a deceased person. A family member who was a lawyer shopped the case around for me. Three firms – including on of the top malpractice firms in the country- agreed that the evidence of malpractice was clear but delined to take it on contingency mostly because my state’s tort laws limited the jury award on lost income and getting other compensatory damages would have to meet too high a standard.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Yes – I am not familiar with laws in the USA but as someone in the UK, where we have much stronger employee protections and it is generally much harder to fire someone, willfully disobeying direct instructions would enable an employer to fire someone – especially where they are breaking rules relating to the health and safety of other employees

        1. UKDancer*

          Absolutely, even in the UK flagrantly refusing to follow a legitimate direct instruction is a pretty good reason to fire someone. We’ve had people sacked for refusing to follow Health and Safety rules.

          I definitely think it’s wise to loop your legal advisors into the situation so if he does sue you’re ready.

      4. Mid*

        Oh, I fully agree! Sorry if my comment was unclear.

        They should fire him and are legally able to do so.

        I’m just betting that some of the “civil rights” lawyers that I’m seeing coming out of the woodwork right now are just itching for the easy money and publicity. I know of a few suits in my county over “violations of rights” because people aren’t allowed to use a public pool, or aren’t allowed inside stores without masks. The lawsuits won’t go anywhere, but they’re still happening, and if he’s already saying his rights are being “violated” so it would be smart to inform any legal counsel the company has about the situation, just in case he does decide to attempt to sue.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I honestly don’t think it’s happening here. Cases like this are so cut and dry: we have clear company policies that he refuses to follow. Even if he wanted to argue for a medical/religious exemption on some of them (which he hasn’t), there are plenty of other rules that wouldn’t apply to that he’s breaking. It’s clear cut.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I think it’s “People aren’t allowed to use public pools. People aren’t allowed inside stores without masks.’

            In my town, they’re measuring temps before you can go in the pool area, and the cut-off is pretty low, like 99.1 . I think Mid’s probably talking about being denied for something like that. You have to wear masks in the changing rooms or when hanging out on the pool deck, but you leave them at your towel when you walk to the water.

            1. Gruntilda*

              I don’t see how adding more rules to the pool entry rules list would justify a lawsuit. They can already refuse entry to people not wearing proper attire or who are clearly ill, this is the same thing here.

              1. Oxford Comma*

                It’s been a while since I did any kind of swimming, but I remember the local pool had a rule that you had to shower before getting in the pool. People who refused to follow the rule got asked to leave.

      5. Observer*

        I agree, and I hope I was clear about that. It’s just that if you know that something is about to hit the fan, it’s probably a good idea to alert the people who are going to be involved in cleaning up the mess.

    3. Annony*

      I don’t think he is likely to sue unless he has a track record of frivolous lawsuits. It is expensive to sue and he is working part time. He wouldn’t really have a case, so a lawyer would be unlikely to agree to do it for a percent of the hypothetical settlement. It is never a bad idea to keep the company’s legal counsel in the loop, but I don’t think they need to be too concerned.

      1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

        Yeah, agreed. I feel like this guy is highly likely to threaten to sue but unlikely to actually follow through with it.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        It is never a bad idea to keep the company’s legal counsel in the loop, but I don’t think they need to be too concerned.

        With the way the last 6 months have gone, OP’s legal council may well appreciate getting this heads up just for the laughs. Lawyers are people, too.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Even funnier the higher the court it gets escalated to, when the aggrieved party inevitably ends up losing and paying all the costs.

      3. AKchic*

        oh, it depends on how he wants to spin it. There is at least one group that would take on his case, if he spun it as a freedom of speech/religion kind of fight.

      4. Momma here*

        You just never know who has a cousin or brother-in-law who is a lawyer and will start a suit as a favor or even for the practice. Keeping counsel informed is a courtesy that may help you in another situation.

    4. bluephone*

      Oh man, I know this isn’t really realistic but: if OP doesn’t fire him and this guy’s coworkers and/or their family get COVID-19, they should all totally sue the heck out of both That Guy *and* the company for letting him bring his germ-ridden hide around. Yes, that’s not possible on a realistic scale but oh man it would be such great karma. This dude is going to get this company on the 6 ‘o clock news for alllllllll the worst reasons:
      1) because of the public health debacle (I’m sure the local contact tracing department in OP’s region–if any–would LOVE to interview this guy about his movements for the past 180 days)
      2) all the other “BUT MAH FREEDOMS?!1111!!!!” nutters are going to stage a dumb “anti-mask” protest (with their guns) in front of Company’s HQ.

      OP, there are gosh-knows-how-many unemployed people languishing in your region’s unemployment line. Pull like 5 resumes from the list before you give this guy the boot and then call them while you give him the boot.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, if you already know that he returned from travel and refused to quarantine, and you didn’t forcibly refuse to let him work for those two weeks, your company is responsible for not enforcing its own rules. You’re at the point where it’s negligent not to him fired him before now.

    5. TeapotNinja*

      I would consult legal counsel only to have a VIP in the company detail the potential liability of this person infecting another employee.

  5. HR in the city*

    This employees behavior makes me so angry!! I am not a scientist so can’t say 100% whether wearing masks or social distancing will stop corona but since it’s proven effective in other countries we need to do it. If we ever want things to be like before the virus was widespread than do your part now. I look at it the same as like traffic signals or warning labels on products or seat belts. All these things are done in the name of safety and most agree that they are good until for some reason it doesn’t suit your narrative. I am also getting really annoyed with all the out of state plates I see. In Montana that is how we got corona virus here in the first place! Lots of people with vacation homes coming here to quarantine and brought corona virus with them. Now Montana has moved to person to person transmission instead of travel being the cause of new infections.

    1. Mazzy*

      I look at it the same as like traffic signals or warning labels on products or seat belts

      I think this is a good analogy to go with. I think he will hear this one. It’s nice and generic and you can’t really argue it.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I go with ‘shirt / shoes / masks / service’. Warning labels get a lot of mockery even from reasonable people. I totally know people (including a nurse!) who didn’t wear seatbelts after they became legally mandated, until they got pulled by a cop. The nurse stated that the fear of being trapped in a fiery car by a non-functioning belt was intense enough that their fear outweighed the actual danger of an accident without a belt. After about five years, they started wearing the belts regularly, at least when I was in the car.

        It is possible that repeated statements of ‘well, if you don’t wear a belt you won’t be alive to worry about the fire; don’t you have one of those special belt-cutting knives anyway?’ had a cumulative effect.

        A lot came down to early childhood training – my parents wouldn’t move the car if anyone didn’t have their seatbelt buckled. The nurse’s parents… still don’t always wear them.

    2. Tin Cormorant*

      Whether it’s effective or not is not the issue. It’s company policy, you follow it. Or it’s the law in your area, so follow it!

      I seriously don’t understand these Karens at Starbucks trying to say they can’t wear a mask for medical reasons; you also don’t have to go to Starbucks!

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        And also, most Starbucks locations have a drive thru if you want to get your overpriced burned coffee without having to put on a mask.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        Also, if your respiratory function is so compromised that you genuinely can’t wear a mask, there is no way you survive COVID. An actual cold would probably kill you. It would be in the best interest of Starbucks et al. to keep you off their premises, because they don’t want a wrongful death suit on their hands.

        And you wouldn’t have enough spare oxygen to scream at the barista, either.

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          I have a friend whose respiratory function is so compromised she cannot wear a mask. She also cannot walk from one end of her house to another without assistance. No starbucks visits for her.
          And she is on oxygen.

        2. JKP*

          It’s not just physical. I have a few clients who are struggling with mask wearing because of severe phobias (like claustrophobia). They have no breathing/health problems and aren’t at high risk for covid, but trying to wear a mask has put more than one in the hospital with a severe panic attack.

    3. EnfysNest*

      Yep. I got so frustrated that I snapped at a coworker yesterday over this – I’m mad at myself for losing my cool, but he was actively complaining about the fact that someone had just come to check mask compliance on our office floor (which is that guy’s *job*) and saying obnoxious things like “this mask stuff is out of control”… when we work at a medical facility… in Florida. I just CAN’T. This just a day after that same guy had expressed that he thought “asymptomatic” and “negative” meant the same thing. And just hours after he started a big discussion trying to get us to spend a TON of money on something that would only have a marginal theoretical benefit over the perfectly acceptable version already chosen, claiming we should get the more expensive one “just in case”. So you can “just in case” spend huge amounts of money for something with minimal potential benefit but you can’t “just in case” wear a mask that has huge amounts of scientific backing and is our current main hope for stopping the pandemic? Uuugh. [I still definitely shouldn’t have lost my cool, but it was straw on the camel’s back with this guy in that moment.]

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I completely understand your outburst, even if it wasn’t very professional. I’m sorry you work with people like this – it’s infuriating.

      2. Chinook*

        I would love to put the idiot in my in-laws home for the next 6 days. Their 6 month old son was exposed to an asymptomatic nurse during an operation (notified 3 dy later after her routinetesting showed positive). They are now in quarantine in a small condo with 3 adults (they were staying at grandma’s for the surgery as they are from up north), a 3 year old and 6 month old twins who are teething and on the cusp of crawling. There is no backyard.

    4. Mouse Anon*

      Yup, I refer to the public health protocols like the the Oxford comma – sure, it might not be strictly necessary, but it could also be quite helpful – so why the hell not just use it???

      1. Kiwi with laser beams*

        Which lends a whole new meaning to “Nobody will die if I don’t use Oxford commas”…

    5. Briefly anon*

      I know out-of-state tourism is an issue in Montana right now, and it’s pretty clearly linked to the surge in some places in the state. But in my county, it’s not “how we got corona virus here in the first place” – we got it from county residents who traveled, came back, and didn’t follow the 14-day quarantine rule in place at the time. People really want to blame whatever “others” for this, but everyone’s behavior matters.

    6. TiffIf*

      A friend of mine has been comparing store requirements for masks to the “shirt and shoes required” signs most stores have–and if you don’t have a problem with them dictating that you have to wear shirt and shoes, you shouldn’t have a problem with a mask requirement. The only difference is you are accustomed to wearing shirt and shoes in stores.

    7. TheMavenOfMice*

      Hi Scientist here! We don’t have ANYTHING to protect folks from or treat folks with, so physical distancing and masks are the only tools her have. Masks are not a silver bullet but actually do help in stopping/slowing the spread. I am in Flori-DUH and it’s so frustrating to come across these people…

  6. UrbanChic*

    I would terminate him immediately. If you know he planned a vacation against company policy, do it now. This is about keeping your employees safe at work, and minimizing risk to your business.

  7. Esme*

    If any of those people he’s mocking are covered by the ADA, could that be a hostile work environment as well (mocking disabled / vulnerable people for being afraid)?

    I ask because I know I would feel harassed by someone like this.

    He’s a liability. Sorry OP.

    1. Nea*

      It doesn’t have to reach the legalities of “hostile work place” – the simple fact of bullying any coworkers over anything is reason enough to fire someone.

  8. justcourt*

    I think the damage has been done. If I worked for OP’s company, I would be furious that Hoax Guy was endangering everyone else and that my employer was not prioritizing worker safety.

    My mom has been going through a somewhat similar issue, but she works in healthcare, so the refusal to enforce health & safety policies is particularly egregious. In my mom’s case, she has advised some friends & family to seek care elsewhere.

    I think the refusal to enforce policies designed to keep people safe can not only hurt employee morale, it can also damage a business’ reputation.

    1. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

      My friend is a nurse and has been *floored* by some of her colleague’s attitudes, even after having spent months transferred to ICU to care for COVID patients. Some of them think it’s “overblown” (their hospital had people treated in the halls it was so full of COVID patients) or that they’re now immune because they didn’t get sick while treating the patients.

    2. beanie gee*

      I have a friend who works as a doctor at a nursing home. One of the staff believes the whole thing is overblown and refuses to follow the safety protocol, but the place hasn’t fired him yet. The only thing they did was isolate his wing from the other wings. It terrifies my friend that people will die because of him.

      I’m so sad for our country right now.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        As a person who has an elderly family member living in a nursing home, if I found out that one of the employees was refusing to follow safety protocols, I would be LIVID, with or without COVID in the mix. If you are responsible for the care of vulnerable people and you refuse to follow safety guidelines at any time or for any reason, you should be out on your ass. I would be on the phone with your manager, your manager’s manager, the corporate office, everyone. I hope your friend continues to push for their patients to be protected from this horrible employee.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          And as soon as I hung up the phone with the manager, I’d be on the phone with the news.

    3. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      Healthcare is weirdly populated with a large number of, well, anti-science types, for lack of a better phrase. It’s truly bizarre.

      1. Kammy6707*

        In a lot of areas (especially rural) it’s a solid, well-paying job and health care always seems to be a growing field so a lot of people make the decision to become nurses or go into a related position because it’s the best option for them financially (or the only non-service section job in the area). However, that doesn’t mean they should be in healthcare…my sister-in-law is a nurse and it took her about 5 years just to get her associate’s because she kept failing and having to repeat courses. I see a lot of acquaintances from HS post on Facebook that they decided to enter nursing school (usually 10 years after HS graduation and having only worked in the service sector all that time). Not saying people can’t turn their lives around or don’t deserve better opportunities, but I would not be happy to see them in my hospital room! I think they just take the science classes they have to, but don’t put anymore thought into it past that.

        1. cricket*

          In addition, for kids who don’t have access to career education, it may be one of the only jobs they know about, or that are socially acceptable for women. That last part may not be overt or conscious, but it’s hard to not notice when you go to a new church and almost all of the women are either nurses or elementary school teachers.

  9. Observer*

    OP, stop thinking about this as being about his political views. At this point it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you have given him explicit instructions and he’s refusing to follow them, he’s giving others a hard time for following instructions and he’s being rude to other staff. That’s all just bad behavior, even if this were just about something far less consequential, something like dress codes.

    When you talk to him do NOT get into a discussion about this! The Bill of Rights doesn’t apply in the workplace, and it doesn’t matter what he thinks or whether he is right or not. These are the work requirements, and he needs to follow them. If he needs to be reminded more that once more about any of the requirements, that firing on the spot. No more discussions, no PIP, nothing. ONE final warning and he’s gone.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      This. He does not make company policy; management does. The point is not his political views, the point is his behavior. Following company policy is a condition of employment, and he is not doing that. Get whatever documentation you need in order and fire him, for the sake of everyone else.

    2. Hummer on the Hill*

      Spot on, Observer. The LW needs to realize that there could be a Corporate Policy that everyone wear blue on Wednesday, and every employee needs to follow it, period. Policies can be totally capricious and illogical, but they are the company’s policies, and you can be fired for not heeding them. Beliefs, politics do not factor in.

      1. Nea*

        Not to mention being fired simply for bullying other coworkers for heeding them. Just the bullying is a firing offense even if he complied with all the rules.

      2. EnfysNest*

        Yep! My boss pointed out yesterday after an issue with one of my coworkers that masks are simply part of our uniform / dress code now. We have to wear close-toed shoes, we can’t wear jeans, and we have to wear masks. It’s all part of the deal. End of story.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I really like the idea of treating this like an update to the dress code. That’s a great way of expressing it.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This. I don’t know about US laws, but I know the UK won’t accept “I’ve got a right to practice my beliefs even if said beliefs put others in danger” as a legal defence against being fired.

      This guy, it doesn’t matter if he thinks Covid is actually nothing more than the backside gas of Cthulhu after a hot curry and we’re all too afraid of the smell, he can believe what he wants but his ACTIONS have to follow workplace rules.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Our viral genetics professor was a total geek and often stated that Cthulhu was the god of nasty viruses. Chuck Norris was the god of antivirals.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Sadly “I’ve got a right to practice my beliefs even if my beliefs put others in danger” is a pretty common outlook here in the US. Certain subsets of our culture glorify selfishness and deride actually giving a crap about other people’s rights, feelings, or safety as weak, unmanly, or socialist.

    4. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

      Yes! I think this is important. Don’t open the door to arguing about COVID or anything else under the sun. The company has a policy and he’s not following it.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        The virus is almost incidental in this case. The company requires him to do something, he needs to do it or he loses his job. It’d be like Hubby Twerp (in IT) deciding to let LoseAllYourMoneyBettingOnHorses . com through the firewall. It’s a completely legal gambling site (here in the UK – also it’s made up), not at all political, nobody would actually get sick or die, but it’s *totally against company policy* and he would be fired for doing it and rightfully so.

        Take the virus out of the equation – he needs to do as he’s required to do so by management (not a governer or a politician or even a scientist) for the duration of his employment, or he forfeits that employment.

        1. UKDancer*

          Absolutely. My company has some policies I don’t always like or agree with but they’re the policies and I follow them. That goes with the job.

          If I think a policy is incorrect or needs updating I engage with it through the processes the company has in place in a rational manner. I don’t just ignore it or fight my boss on it.

    5. Ace in the Hole*

      Yes, this exactly.

      I deal with safety and environmental policies at my agency. People have all kinds of personal/political beliefs about environmental issues and regulations… which don’t matter one bit at work. I don’t care what you believe, I don’t care what you do at home, as long as you follow workplace policies we’re golden. If you start dumping toxic chemicals down the storm drain you’re fired regardless of your personal beliefs.

      Once you allow it to become a political debate you’ve lost. Disciplinary action isn’t the forum for deciding company values about health and safety. That happened way earlier when you set policy in the first place. Now it’s just about his responsibility (and failure to) follow critical instructions.

    1. Do As I Say, Not As I Do*

      Your other employees are looking to you to protect them. Please do so.

  10. Ericka Hayes*

    Fire him already. Not only is he already putting everyone at risk, given his attitude and behaviors he is highly likely to get COVID-19 and given his attitude about it, he will likely be dishonest and work while ill so people will be exposed/infected by him. Fire him before he brings disaster. He has flaunted rules made for safety and harassed coworkers, that’s more than enough.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I second this. You have enough to fire him based only on his refusal to follow business policy. In addition, you know for a fact that he has been dishonest. I think those two basic violation would spell termination in any workplace.

  11. Lizzy May*

    Realistically, even if he was paid for time after travel can you trust that this particular employee would properly quarantine? I’d guess no. He’s not going to follow the rules. He’s got to go.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      Yeah, I would guess the one thing he might do is be less vocal about the risk he takes, but I suspect he would still be taking them.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        He would have a glorious paid staycation, bullying bartenders and retail assistants who try to enforce mask policies where he visits.

  12. BeezLouise*

    I’m in the same situation … except it’s my boss who thinks it’s a hoax. We have all kinds of “board approved” policies and he has to be argued and convinced into following every single one of them, and even then refuses to do it.

    He’s told me he thought I was “more logical” than believing in all of this. It’s infuriating.

    Our state has seen a massive rise in cases, and he’s decided this is the week we should come back to work in-person, starting with in-person meetings. I have a job that can be done 100% remotely. It boggles the mind that they are in such a rush to get back to normal that they’re willing to literally make some of us risk our lives. At this point I’m asking for a medical exemption (I fall into two high-risk categories) but it’s just exhausting to have to fight this kind of ignorance every single day. If they refuse to grant my request I’m not sure what to do but quit, honestly. It’s infuriating.

    1. Katiekaboom*

      If they reject it, please write into Alison. If you’re job is 100% able to do WFH, and they reject your accommodation, I would think you would have some recourse legally or with the DOL. I’d like to hear Alisons take on this.

      1. Eva Luna*

        I’d love to hear her take on it, too. We won the immediate battle with my husband’s employer by emailing HR with the state and CDC guidelines and a letter form my doctor about my high-risk status (and I am pretty sure we were not the only ones), but I am sure it will come up again, and that it’s a super-common problem everywhere right now. But at first his management was going to force everyone to come in 50% of the time, whether there was a legit work-related reason for it or not.

    2. Dave*

      I work for a company of people (and really an industry) who doesn’t take this seriously. People will wear masks when entering building or going to bathroom but not all the time and that violates state law. If I am moved from WFH status and have to deal with more people my plan is to start getting information about our disability policy because I know I am ripe for anxiety attacks just from my experiences of being in public spaces where people aren’t following the law. When people complain about my WFH status I ask them if they are following all the state laws in the office because if I go in I am going to require it for my safety and report them if they are not.
      The best of luck to you!

    3. Tiny_Strawberries*

      Can your colleagues write an anon letter to the board that approved these policies explaining your concerns? Or like, expose him?

    4. tangerineRose*

      He’s the person not being logical. If this is overblown (which I doubt), and we follow the restrictions, then not a biggie, maybe we spent more time wearing masks and distancing than we want to. If it isn’t overblown, and we don’t follow the restrictions, more people will die.

      Seems like the logic would indicate following the restrictions.

  13. Steveo*

    I hate doing timecards (I don’t bill anyone and am not customer facing) and I think the fact that they are useful to anyone at my company is a hoax. However, I still do them, because it’s part of my job. Also not doing timecards won’t kill anyone. Just fire this guy now and save yourself the headaches.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      And I bet you don’t wait until your boss comes and says “Now Steveo, we’ve talked about this — you need to do your time card” before you do your time card. You just…do it.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      I got landed with helping out another team…with work that I specifically worked hard to get away from…for six months. I let my boss know I was not happy about this, but I did the work. (In my direct boss’s defense, the decision was made at a higher level than him, so we were both stuck, and he did get it back off my plate as soon as he could.)

    3. hbc*

      If I was a peer, I’d be mocking him so hard in that vein. “Ooh, your workplace is making you do something pointless and unnecessary, do go on. This has literally never happened before.”

  14. Mazzy*

    “This isn’t about his beliefs about the virus; it’s about his refusal to comply with your policies”

    This 1000X, and thank you for including it. This is they key. We are not epidemiologists, and even they are changing their information and numbers as time goes on. So if you go the route of discussing the virus with the facts that you know, you’re in a lose lose situation. It’s too much information for one person to be on top of. I try to be, but if you skip the news for one day, you miss so much. Trends are reversing, new numbers are coming out, new ideas are being published. If you get one fact wrong or don’t know one thing, you will lose credibility with the other person and they will not hear you. Like it or not. And it’s really not about winning an argument anyway, it’s about getting them to comply with your safety rules.

    Much better to come down with a “this isn’t about your beliefs, we’re still figuring this virus out, this is about the collective needing for certain safety measures to be followed” stance and if he squirms, add a “we’d rather go with an abundance of caution than be under-caution do to the risk.”

    Personally, I’d also grill him on the travel part, to get where his head is at. Are those trips really that necessary?

    1. Katiekaboom*

      I wouldn’t ask him about the travel. It’s company policy that it is highly discouraged. Opening it up for dialogue could lead him to believe that it is negotiable.

  15. Malarkey01*

    Before even reading the response I said “Fire him”. You don’t let one employee terrorize your other employees and flout company policy. Also, if at all possible, don’t make your other employees come back to the office unless there’s no other way to do the work.

  16. Yamikuronue*

    I don’t understand why the company wouldn’t pay a part-time employee for the part of the week they would have come in if they weren’t on quarantine? Presumably to make enough to live off, a part-time employee is either very well paid indeed or he’s working two jobs and thus both jobs would need to pay him for 20 hours of work to make a full paycheck. If a company is hiring two part-time employees to get around having to pay benefits to one full-time employee, that means they’re taking on twice the risk of people getting sick on vacation and so forth anyway, so they ought to be prepared to pay out twice as often for quarantine benefits like this.

    1. NJ Anon*

      My husband works part-time by choice. He’s semi retired. He had to quarantine because he was exposed to someone who had the virus. Company didn’t pay him a dime and didn’t have to. It is rare in some industries that part time employees get PTO.

    2. Colette*

      Eh. If he is travelling for work, work should pay for him to quarantine. But he’s travelling frequently for fun; they would be paying him all the time for no work.

      And there is no indication why he is working part time; it could be his choice, or because it’s legitimately a job that needs part time availability.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        My company even has a policy that if you take elective travel to a hot spot, you have to quarantine for 14 days and use your vacation time for it if your job can’t be done remote. Any other quarantine situation you get to use the new “covid quarantine” time code that doesn’t come out of vacation.

        1. Oska*

          Same or similar policy here (Norway). I don’t know the exact details as I haven’t needed to look into it (I’ve done no travelling or had any exposure to people with known infections), but the government quickly shut down anyone who thought they could get two weeks “extra holiday” at home by going abroad and getting paid sick leave after. Voluntary travel abroad that requires quarantining after, goes out of your vacation time or becomes unpaid leave. Anything else (work travel or other exposure risk that requires self-isolating just in case) is registered as a new category of sick leave with its own time code.

          As Alison points out, sure, some might under-report their travels to save their PTO, but as post-travel isolation is government mandated, they’re doing more than going against company policy, they’re breaking the law. Also, I’m under the impression that people here largely respect the rules. We’ve flattened that curve pretty good. Some people have probably ignored the rules and gotten away with it, though, because someone always does… :-|

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      He’s travelling on holiday, therefore it’s his choice to travel. Wouldn’t paid time off after just encourage him to travel more? Is it likely he would stay home quarantining during the paid time off? Or would he maybe just travel somewhere else?

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        That’s probably exactly why they’re not willing to pay for it – they don’t want to encourage the travel.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Part time employees don’t always get benefits. And he needs to quarantine because of choices he made that were against company policy, why SHOULD they pay him to stay home?

    5. Luke*

      I can see it being abused.

      PT employee wants additional paid vacation, so they deliberately “travel” to a designated coronavirus hotspot knowing they’ll get paid to quarantine at home. It’s basically another paid vacation for PT employees who’d otherwise not qualify for that much PTO. It’s up to management to decide if that downside is a worthwhile trade off to protect collective employee health. As Alison points out, not paying PTO for quarantine time incentivizes employees to conceal travel or coronavirus exposure.

      1. doreen*

        That’s exactly the problem – no matter what you do, it incentivizes something you don’t want. Pay for the 2 week quarantine -some people will travel to the places that result in a quarantine because they get an extra 2 week vacation. Don’t pay for it and risk people not disclosing that they traveled.
        And all of this has nothing even to do with whether the people believe it’s a hoax. I have learned a lot of things about my coworkers since March that I would really prefer not to know. One person didn’t come to work for 3 weeks in March (we are essential state employees who can’t work from home) . She was very clear – she had no symptoms, she wasn’t exposed to anyone who tested positive, she had no children she needed to stay home to care for. She wasn’t coming to work because she was going to protect herself and her family. To an extent, she got away with it – she didn’t get any of the special COVID leave but she was allowed to use sick leave even though she wasn’t sick. Then June comes – the very day the governor issues an order that anyone coming into the state from certain other states will have to quarantine for 14 days , she tells everyone within the sound of her voice that she’s going to one of those states and won’t be using her own time to quarantine ’cause the state will have to pay her. The next day the governor clarifies that neither private nor public employers will have to provide this additional leave to people who are quarantined after voluntary travel. She returns after two weeks and claims she changed her mind and never went to the other state. So now everyone is wondering what the truth is- if she was too afraid to come to work in March why wasn’t she afraid to travel in June? Was she telling the truth when she said she didn’t go? Were both situations about trying to get extra paid time off?

    6. Liz*

      Not necessarily. I work under 20 hours per week at my sole job. I am paid the hourly living wage, but this doesn’t amount to much in total. I get by because I live frugally in a cheap area and have a roommate. I also get annual leave on a pro rata basis, and our organisation is paying out 2 weeks for anybody who needs to quarantine regardless of hours worked. (However, my country currently doesn’t have a high number of cases and travel does not automatically incur a need to quarantine.)

    7. pancakes*

      “Presumably to make enough to live off . . .”

      Why make presumptions on this topic? There’s some good reporting on the topic of the high public cost of low wages — adjunct professors and big box store employees, for example, who have to supplement their low wages with food stamps. There’s also no shortage of information on wage stagnation, either. Having a job and earning enough money to live on don’t invariably go hand-in-hand.

    8. OP*

      He works part-time by choice and he does not have another job. He does not have PTO, but he would be paid for the hours he would normally work if he were required to quarantine for any other reason (work travel, exposure at work, testing positive, etc). It is only quarantine following personal travel that is not paid.

  17. Snarkus Aurelius*

    “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

    –Neil deGrasse Tyson

    The same goes for COVID-19 as well as any other disease that exists.

    You may want to steal and change up the phrasing here, but your employee needs to hear that.

    You do not need him to believe a pandemic exists. You do not need him to agree with public health mandates and guidelines.

    You do need him to comply with what’s requested of him. That’s it. Whether he forgets or “forgets” is irrelevant. It’s no different than not putting a cover sheet with his TPS reports.

    Don’t fall into some rabbit hole of his logic and individual beliefs and debate. They don’t matter.

    1. Mazzy*

      “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it”

      But this is a trap, and I think you agree by the end of your comment. See my comment above. Best to keep it generic. If you delve too deep into science, he will put out studies on how particles still get through most masks, which is also science. But is that the conversation you really want to be having or are equipped to have? Certainly not! This is only about him following the rules.

      I’ve seen people dig themselves holes by trying to discuss based on science and then getting tripped up on facts and figures and not know how to react to things they hasn’t seen yet, or just lose credibility by citing out of date information. That’s a whole rabbit hole you want to avoid. What you want is for him to wear the mask and stop travelling.

    2. Tin Cormorant*

      The worst are the people who *do* believe in science and use it as a weapon against you by cherry picking specific studies that contradict the consensus.

      They’ll go on and on for hours about how mask-wearing “isn’t supported by science” and any evidence you bring up showing that it IS will be dismissed as flawed the same way you are dismissing their evidence. It’s a waste of time to debate. Just the same as anti-vax.

      1. tangerineRose*

        They don’t sound very scientific. A scientist is supposed to look at all the facts, right?

        1. anonymous 5*

          They are indeed. BUT. A lot of people believe in science but don’t fully grasp that that’s a *bare minimum*, and that there is a VAST gap between mere understanding that science is real and actual expertise in science.

          1. Purrsnikitty*

            More like they’re happy to use whichever part of science serves their purposes. Too much cherry-picking to be called “believing in [all] science” as far as I’m concerned :)

      2. Mazzy*

        That’s called a debate, it’s not “the worst.” Someone providing information to discuss is precisely how debates work. Don’t conflate that with being like anti vaxxing.

        But in this case this is precisely why you don’t mention science.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Trying to reason with someone like this is pointless. He’s violating company policy. Period. End of story. He needs to be fired.

    4. MayLou*

      You could rephrase this to “The good thing about this policy is that it applies whether or not you agree with it”. I wouldn’t recommend actually saying it to the employee, but keep it in mind. It doesn’t matter whether or not he thinks the policy is fair, logical, reasonable, or whatever. As long as it doesn’t break any laws, a company can have any policy they like.

    5. blackcat*

      I’ve seen that quote before and it really bothers me. Science isn’t “true,” not in the way that, say, math is. Encouraging people to think science is “true” means that when current understanding evolves, people think that science was always “wrong” and therefore all science must be wrong.

      Science develops theories and bodies of information that are most likely correct and reflect current evidence and consensus. The sciences are less a body of knowledge and more approaches for understanding the world and ways of thinking. Science is a process, and processes can’t be “true” per se. Science is also a *social* process embedded in a culture, and it reflects the biases of that culture.

      I don’t think a nature of science lesson is warranted, but I also don’t think saying “Well science says X” is ever helpful either.

      Experts currently agree that masks and social distancing help prevent the spread of COVID, based on the current data available and our best-guess models right now.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I dislike the quote, too. The scientific consensus has been wrong in the past, and what was true remained true the whole way.

        I also dislike coming down on this side of the conversation, because I don’t like to be surrounded by those who reject everything.

        1. blackcat*

          I mean, people used science to justify racism and eugenics.
          The problems with portraying science as about truth are not just about scientific consensus being “wrong” from time to time, but also about the fact that science and colonialism, racism, sexism, and all sorts of other -isms have a long history of being mutually reinforcing.

          I am a scientist, but I’m an educator first. Emphasizing science as an often flawed process and encouraging students to learn how to spot flawed and biased scientific arguments is an important part of my teaching. I’m an interdisciplinary researcher, but my primary training is in physics. I often remind people that the physics community is what brought the nuclear bomb into existence. To pretend that “science” is always good or true is to devalue the human lives that have been actively destroyed by the works of scientists. Biology and medicine often gets flack for their historical harms, but there’s plenty of blame to go around to in physical sciences as well.

      2. Total*

        Math isn’t really true, in that sense, either.

        And yes, I dislike coming down on this side because crazies.

        1. blackcat*

          Well, (pure) math links assumptions (postulates and axioms and the like) to conclusions (theorems). In that sense, given your assumptions, the theorems *are true.* Doesn’t mean that it necessarily means anything, but you can make statements like “given A and B, C is true.”

          Fundamentally, “2+2=4” is a different type of “fact” than “the sky is blue.” I can prove one logically. The other I can describe and explain using a variety of principles, but it’s also scientifically valid to say “Many people have observed the sky and agree it’s blue, therefore we accept that ‘the sky is blue’ is a reliable, repeatable observation.”

          1. Total*

            “given your assumptions”

            Er…yes, that’s my point. In the sense that most people think of something as being objectively true, math is no more true than science. It’s built on arbitrary decisions.

            Also, 2+2 isn’t necessarily 4. It could be 11.

      3. Persephone Underground*

        I thought of it in more of the abstract- as in, scientific truths (whether or not they’re currently known or accepted) are true whether or not you believe they are. This includes the process of scientific discovery itself, that the universe is what it is whether prevailing thought agrees or not, because it’s about discovering truths, not creating a consensus around beliefs. Granted, your reading may be more accurate depending on the context of the quotation.

        I’m reminded of a scene from Silent Sky (play about the woman astronomer who figured out how to measure the distances to stars). A presenter says the idea of the universe being larger than x is patently absurd. The protagonist replies “Well, it’s a good thing the universe doesn’t care what you think.”

  18. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Fire him. He’s dangerous to all the other staff. He’s literally a health hazard.

    (I’m serious. I’ve lost people to this virus. Their coworkers are dealing with the grief too. If someone came in spouting it was a hoax I think there’d be a risk of airborne computer hardware hurtling toward the offender)

  19. Anon-mama*

    If you don’t fire him (which I think you’re within your rights to), are you able to find industry webinars/a free course through the library to ask him to do as work from home during a quarantine? My role primarily can’t be done from home, but doing the above was a compromise our union came up with to keep us from being furloughed/losing our insurance early in the pandemic. Also, if you keep him, or if you have other employees who may need to travel for a funeral or something, ask them to take a test before returning to work? My municipality is doing this for any travel; those with PTO have to use vacation time for it (it is rather mean if the travel was for something serious and not really optional). If it would be a week of scheduling and waiting for results, then the work from home “tasks” could preserve their paychecks in the meantime.

    1. sofar*

      In a lot of states, requiring a test is probably iffy. In my state, it’s pretty much impossible to qualify for a test unless you have several symptoms AND have had known contact with someone who has had the virus (for example, a few weeks ago, I had a sudden fever and did NOT qualify for a test). The few locations doing drive-up tests of everyone (symptoms or no) involve a several-hour wait, and they hit their daily capacity before noon every day (and send everyone else away). And results take up to 10 days to come back.

      1. Anon-mama*

        I do admit to being in a state with very low transmission now, so testing is not an issue for us. If the OP doesn’t have good conditions, then I agree, it wouldn’t make sense.

      1. Anon-mama*

        I agree, this particular guy should go. I should have amended my comment before submitting. If OP has employees who do need to travel for funerals, custody reasons, or something, or has employees with no benefits who need to wait out a quarantine/test results and OP wants to keep that person, maybe there are options to consider as “work.”

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Unfortunately, testing still isn’t ubiquitous in many areas and it can take a long time before results come back.

      I like the online courses as work from home thing; that’s pretty smart. It doesn’t hurt people to take a little bit of extra training. (Not for this guy, though. He needs to go.)

    3. Observer*

      Why would the company go through these hoops? This is not a matter of someone not being able to currently perform their job because of something out of their control. This is someone who has decided that his “rights”
      outweigh his need to follow company rules. How is letting him do some make work from home a “compromise”? It’s nothing more than rewarding him for obnoxious behavior.

    4. Ominous Adversary*

      You’re actually suggesting that the LW require employees returning from a funeral to get a COVID test before they can come back to work, as an alternative to firing this guy?

  20. Sharrbe*

    If this were an instance where he’s been consistently late to arrive, then that’s worth a conversation and giving him one more chance.

    But giving him one more chance here could cause someone else to get sick. I think you need to fire him. He already knows the rules but has refused to followed them. He should accept the consequences of his actions.

    1. Tin Cormorant*

      Yes. I would have fired him yesterday for something like this. The risk isn’t worth the small chance that he’ll suddenly change his ways.

    2. Tabby Baltimore*

      “But giving him one more chance here could cause someone else to get sick. ”
      A key point here, OP, and likely the most solid reason for removing him as quickly as possible from the workplace.

    3. Do As I Say, Not As I Do*

      Exactly! One more chance for him could be a death sentence for one of your other employees.

  21. Cordoba*

    For some reason employers who would fire somebody who refused to wear safety glasses or steel toes as a matter of course are being more tolerant of employees who balk at COVID-related safety gear.

    This does not make sense to me. Employers establish PPE standards. If you don’t wear the PPE you get canned. End of story.

    Anybody who is making it about their freedumb is missing the point. Whether the PPE is actually effective or not, employers have the *right* to establish standards for safety gear and to make the consistent use of that safety gear a requirement for continued employment. An employee who thinks that level of safety gear is excessive has the *right* to quit and find another job.

    Re-read all stories to this effect mentally replacing “cloth mask” with “hard hat” and the correct course of action becomes much clearer: “I have an employee who think that falling objects are a hoax, refuses to wear his required hard hat, and makes fun of others who do wear hard hats. What in heavens should I ever do in this complicated situation?” Obviously, this guy gets let go that same day. No reason masks should be any different.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Anybody who is making it about their freedumb is missing the point.

      This employee deserves his freedom… from this job!

    2. vampire physicist*

      Agreed. Part of my job responsibilities include specific safety officer duties (not related to COVID or infectious disease, so I don’t have scripts for that unfortunately) and if you fail to comply you are reprimanded. Someone who does not change their behavior after a warning will experience consequences which can include suspension or termination, and since this behavior endangers other people and not just himself, fire him.
      Someone’s personal opinion about whether company safety requirements are necessary doesn’t enter into it. It’s a rule, not an invitation to debate. They can bring it up as a concern and lobby for change but unless/until the policy is changed, they need to follow it.

      1. Cordoba*

        I once saw a guy get caught doing a welding operation without appropriate eye protection, and the approach from the manager who spotted it was a very calm and matter-of-fact “Well, obviously, you’re fired. Pack up your stuff and follow me to the security office to turn in your badge and fill out the separation paperwork.”

        The worker was gone that same day, continuing to keep him around wasn’t remotely an option.

        My experience/expectation in manufacturing is that this is how policies around protective gear are typically enforced: willful non-compliance leads to instant firing. Is this not typical in other industries?

        1. Ranon*

          There’s a lot of office jobs that have never had to think about workplace safety (not that they shouldn’t have, but the risks are low enough that they don’t) that are woefully under prepared for a reality where simply being in a space with another person is a risky situation that requires both PPE and adherence to safety procedures.

          When the riskiest things you’ve ever had to deal with are “chairs are not ladders” and “don’t run in the halls” it is a big paradigm shift.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I think this is key. LW may need to find a different kind of analogy to fit the exact workplace. Someone upthread mentioned “must put cover sheet on TPS reports” and someone else mentioned submitting pointless timesheets. There will be something useful. Extra points if it’s something he really cares about that other people have had to be reminded about (or fired for).

            The objective importance of the rule itself isn’t actually why he should adhere to it: it comes down to “we pay you to do what we say” and even with caveats about reasonableness (mask and hand washing reasonable, full biohazard gear and hopping on one leg not so much) he has to follow company policies. If he insists on not following them, he’s broken the contract and doesn’t have a job any more.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I once saw a guy get caught doing a welding operation without appropriate eye protection, and the approach from the manager who spotted it was a very calm and matter-of-fact “Well, obviously, you’re fired. Pack up your stuff and follow me to the security office to turn in your badge and fill out the separation paperwork.”

          I’m actually quietly amazed that the fired employee could follow the supervisor to the security office, unless the supervisor continued talking to him the whole way.

      2. Observer*

        Someone’s personal opinion about whether company safety requirements are necessary doesn’t enter into it. It’s a rule, not an invitation to debate.


    3. Ranon*

      Yeah, part of my job involves going on construction sites, and on the jobs that are serious about safety have I’m seeing really consistent mask use because it’s just another piece of PPE (not that the superintendents aren’t having to enforce the use, but it’s getting enforced). Don’t take your hard hat off, don’t pull your mask down. It’s not complicated!

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Even if we’re not talking PPE, you can still fire an employee for refusing to wear a thing they are required to wear. I work for a government entity that requires all employees to wear their employee ID badge while on duty. Not wearing it isn’t an instant firing offense, but the employee handbook page discussing this requirement says that failure to comply “will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” If you get your requisite number of warnings and you’re still not complying with the badge wearing policy, they’re allowed to fire you for it.

      Do I think this policy is silly? I absolutely do. Do I follow this policy to the letter. Yes, I do. Because I have become accustomed to paychecks, and I would hate to lose my job over a policy I fully admit is silly.

      Same goes for OP’s maskhole employee. He’s been told what the policies are, and he’s decided he’s not going to follow them. That’s a firing offense, and he’s got no one to blame for that firing but himself for choosing not to follow policies he knew were being enforced.

    5. Coder von Frankenstein*

      I agree with all of this, except for one thing: The “hard hat” analogy is too generous to the COVID denier. If you don’t wear a hard hat, most (though not all) of the physical risk is on you. That is not true with COVID-19.

      I’d compare it to a police officer who refuses to follow firearms safety rules and points a loaded gun at people as a joke.

  22. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    This guy is going to kill people!!!

    My brother is getting married on the 8th, five states from me. Planned and paid pre-COVID, and he’s stubborn.

    So I actually asked my mom “do any guests think COVID is a hoax?” because I don’t want some jerk being a super spreader or causing an argument on my brother’s special day.

    (I know a wedding isn’t advisable now, but they’ve cut the guest list to around 30, mandated masks, made sure not to invite anyone over 70 or immunocompromised, told any invitees they can weigh up risk and decline without offense, used options like doubling up with relatives and bed and breakfasts to avoid large crowded hotels, and will space seating in the church and reception so that family groups can keep a distance. They don’t want their gathering on the news!)

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Definitely. At least in my brother’s case, this was planned beforehand and he is accepting reality and taking all precautions- so for my risk tolerance, it’s OK, if not for everyone. (Some guests have declined due to risk, but he understands, and this has opened up a bloc of rooms at a b & b so that guests can stay there together and effectively make sure only the wedding group stays there).

    1. pancakes*

      Spreading the wedding guests around several different B&Bs rather than one hotel seems like a great way to maximize potential harm to the community if someone who attends happens to be positive.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        This sounds like a matter of doing one’s research and due diligence, which it seems they’re doing (as in, could be a good or bad idea depending on lots of factors, need to consult expert advice, we can’t tell which way is better). No need to pick apart the details from such a limited picture. The point is they’re taking the risk seriously.

        1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

          Actually the guests are going with small places so they have less staff and no elevators (enclosed small spaces like an elevator are Virus Cubes), and so we don’t make other guests sick.

          the group has booked up ten rooms at two places and doubled and tripled up with the soon to be in laws- meaning we have taken all the available rooms and won’t infect other guests. Plan to be very careful around staff, masks in common areas, no touching. Better than some anti mask a-hole staying there!

          Also, older buildings- more likely to be able to open windows. My brother and the sets of parents wanted to make it as likely as possible that if anyone infects someone else, it would only be the people who chose to come!

          1. pancakes*

            By my standards, planning to be careful in these circumstances would not involve traveling to a wedding at all. It’s not essential, and will expose a number of people to needless risk.

        2. pancakes*

          I don’t at all agree. Doctors and nurses need to go to work, groceries need to be available, etc., but no one needs to hold a wedding right now.

  23. IsItOverYet?*

    I am so tired of the “freedom argument.” Yes you are free to not take this seriously, but your employer is also free to set rules and fire you for not following those rules (assuming the rules don’t impinge on a protected status).

    1. Sled dog mama*

      I’m right there with you. I wish everything wasn’t political but that’s the American way apparently, freedom to make stupid decisions and to judge people for their decisions.
      In my town we have a business with a large sign saying “we respect your rights, no mask required” but if you wear a mask they get mad at you. So you only respect my rights if I agree with you?

    2. XF1013*

      Yes! In your own home, you have all the freedom to do as you please. But when you enter your employer’s workplace, they set the rules, just like when you enter a retail establishment, they set the rules, and so on. I do not understand why this concept is hard for people.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Just like the “freedom of speech” argument – yes you’re free to say whatever you want but that freedom doesn’t absolve you of any consequences based on what came out of your mouth.

    4. Anon for work here*

      Those are many of the same people that flip out if you wear jeans to work or don’t put on a tie, or heels. BUT FREEDOM!!!!

      1. Lady Heather*

        Requiring heels is something that absolutely needs to stop, and is not at all comparable with jeans or a tie. Heels are bad for toes, ankles, achilles tendons, calfs, knees, hips, pelvis, back (and, according to my chiropractor, neck and skull). (That is if you do not run afoul of the increased risk of falls and twisted ankles.) Besides it being ridiculous that any employee is exposed to such an unnecessary risk, it is sexist to only expose women to these complications.

        And that’s not even to go into the ‘long legs are sexy so you should wear heels in order to appear professional’ thing that.. might be a sound argument in certain professions, but as far as I know those professionals tend to be independent contractors and, as such, decide on their own dresscode.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. There is no logical reason to mandate someone to wear heels.

          My company doesn’t require our staff to wear them and never has (which is just as well as I’m so rubbish at walking in them). There was a huge outcry and petitions to the UK Government in 2017 about heels being required for receptionist staff in many places. At the time of this I realised that my company contracted receptionists in from an external provider so I checked with the facilities manager in my company what our receptionists were required to do. She confirmed that we did not require them to wear heels as part of their uniform. If they had been I would have been severely displeased.

          I think there’s a clear difference between something like a hard hat or PPE which is required for safety and heels which are required (of women) because someone (probably a man) decided they look better.

    5. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I agree with you. Their argument is “I have freedom, ergo I have no responsibility.” That’s not what the First Amendment says or means.

      If I’m in the mood and in a safe place, sometimes I challenge these people. Some dork will say, “you’re taking away my freedom,” and I’ll say helpfully, “Well, who is your congressperson? You can write to them about it.” 99% of the time this leaves the dork slackjawed, because of course they don’t know who their congressperson is.

    6. Doc in a Box*

      The next time someone tries to argue that not wearing a mask is an inalienable right, I’m going to quote the Declaration of Independence at them. The bit that goes “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

  24. Elizabeth West*

    Honestly, you could take coronavirus out of this letter entirely and fire the dude based on his insubordination. He’s ignoring basic safety guidelines (imagine if he were working on a manufacturing line and ignoring lockout/tagout or something of that nature). He’s planning vacations when it’s not feasible for company operations. He’s blatantly ignoring management directives. His behavior is affecting morale, and he’s openly bullying his coworkers by mocking their concerns.

    Liability is a serious concern here. He’s putting the entire company at risk of a shutdown. I think the safety issue alone is egregious enough to justify an instant dismissal. There are tons of good people out there right now who need a job. You won’t have any trouble replacing him with someone who isn’t a thumping maskhole.

    1. Nea*

      This! I’ve left a comment below pointing out that you can take the word “coronavirus” out of the description entirely and you’re still left with three fireable offenses.

  25. EBStarr*

    There’s something fundamentally broken about America where if someone declares something to be a matter of opinion, we all feel weirdly compelled to act like it’s a political disagreement even if it’s in fact not a matter of opinion or subject to disagreement at all. This guy may think it’s a political issue, but it’s not. It’s a very simple situation where he’s violating safety protocols and putting his coworkers at risk. He should’ve been fired the second or third time that happened, IMO. But the letter writer seems to feel that *the employee* has to be convinced it’s a safety issue before action can be taken, instead of just responding the way they would for any other major, intentional safety violation. That’s one way the anti-science faction seems to have gained power: by simply taking advantage of the general compulsion to be fair to both sides of issues, even if one “side” has been exhaustively disproven and is not playing by the normal rules of discourse, like telling the truth, or accepting the evidence of their own senses.

    About the unpaid leave thing, though, I see a huge problem with requiring part-time employees to take unpaid leave for two weeks as part of a safety plan because that’s more or less doomed as a strategy. Even people who do grasp reality, unlike this guy, are going to have a hard time overcoming all the incentives to lie in order to continue paying their bills. (On the other hand, maybe it’s OK if it’s part of leisure travel because anyone who’s doing leisure travel anyway is definitely Making A Choice that they do not have to make.) But what if a part-time employee has to travel for a funeral or something essential? In that case, they really should receive some kind of benefit for *everyone’s* safety, otherwise you really are putting everyone at risk.

    1. Anon Admin*

      Could the 2 weeks be covered as unemployment due to not having work available? Clearly, there should be no work available to him if he needs to be in quarantine for 2 weeks because he choose leisure travel. I haven’t collected unemployment in 18 years, so I could be totally wrong about this.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      GIANT STANDING OVATION for your first paragraph.

      I am sick to death of “bothsidesing” and this bizarre compulsion to be “fair” to obviously, provably false views. I’m sick of it in the “balanced” media (“But we have to give equal time to the flat-earthers!”) and I’m sick of it in the general public. Some ideas are just WRONG and pretending otherwise is downright dangerous.

    3. virago*

      OP has said that PT employees who have to quarantine are paid by the company, except if their exposure is the result of personal travel.

  26. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    “I might point out that requiring people to quarantine post-travel but not paying them for that time is going to disincentivize people from reporting said travel. ”

    People are not supposed to be taking non-essential trips right now. It’d be fair to work something out if Viral Victor here had a valid reason to be traveling, like caretaking responsibilities out of state, moving his kid into college, going out of state for specialized medical care, etc.

    But right now, Viral Victor’s travel is 100% recreational travel due to him believing that it is safe to be going on fun trips every weekend with no precautions. This is a completely different situation, and he should not be paid for those quarantines.

    1. Cordoba*

      And despite that, some people *are* going to opt to travel, whether or not it’s for a reason that you deem to be “valid”.

      If an employee does travel (for any reason) I want them to tell me so that I can deal with it in the safest and most practical way possible.

      “I don’t agree with your reason for traveling, so I won’t pay you for your time in quarantine” is not a good policy, as it’s both difficult to enforce and unlikely to result in the desired outcomes.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        So he can take a road trip every weekend and be on permanent paid leave? That doesn’t seem right either.

  27. HannahS*

    On the subject of vacations and quarantine, my employer has decided if we do elective travel that requires quarantine, the two weeks of quarantine are counted as vacation time. In the case of quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID, it’s not considered vacation and is basically just a paid leave. We’re full time salaried, though, so I get that it’s more challenging when it comes hourly part-time work.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      On the subject of vacations and quarantine, my employer has decided if we do elective travel that requires quarantine, the two weeks of quarantine are counted as vacation time. In the case of quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID, it’s not considered vacation and is basically just a paid leave.

      I think that’s a very reasonable, borderline-perfect stance.

    2. Mazzy*

      I’ve been thinking about what the impact would be of this, longer term. Some people can’t logistically quarantine for two weeks at a time, so my guess is they’ll travel in secret to avoid the quarantine. I’m not saying I agree, I just think it will happen. Maybe that’s a side tangent, but I want to ask, does the rule cover all travel? Or only to some places? And if it’s only to some places, how do you know what’s on the list?

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Sadly this will be the real world effect of a lot of these measures, that people will do things in secret and cause more spread by doing so. We are going to learn a lot about effective public health interventions after this pandemic, but unfortunately there’s very little we can do now except try.

        1. Niktike*

          This is the same argument that stops unlimited paid sick leave. Yes, some people will take advantage, but if you trust your staff, then you can trust them to use the time for its intended purpose.

          Most people would not take advantage, because most people are trustworthy.

      2. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

        This was my problem when one of my coworkers thought she had covid at the beginning before mandatory masking became a thing and people were all freaked out. I knew she didn’t have covid based on her symptoms and the fact that she blows everything out of proportion, and her doctor didn’t think she had it either. But my manager still had to report it. She couldn’t get tested because the tests weren’t widely available, so everyone she’d worked with the day before who were within 6 feet of her for more than 10 minutes had to either use their PTO to quarantine for 2 weeks, quarantine unpaid for 2 weeks if they didn’t have enough PTO, or wear a mask for 2 weeks (and have all our customers/patients freaking out because why are we wearing a mask).

        I didn’t have enough PTO to be off for two weeks and couldn’t afford to be unpaid, so I was the only person who stayed at work, and ended up working 15 days straight because we lost half our staff because my coworker is overdramatic. I was furious.

      1. Me*

        It doesn’t matter. If someone chooses to travel and doesn’t have enough vacation time to cover their quarentine period thats on them and their poor decision making. The company doesn’t owe them extra leave to cover optional travel.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Exactly this. In a non-Covid world, if I have 2 weeks of vacation time, I do not get to take 3 weeks of vacation. In a Covid world, if I have 2 weeks of vacation time and optional travel to a hot spot comes with the requirement to quarantine for 2 weeks…then *I do not travel to a hot spot* because I don’t have enough vacation time to do so. I’m having a hard time understanding the push back to that.

          1. WellRed*

            I’m referring to the notion that many places have shit vacation time but I see that’s unclear.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Ah, gotcha, because if you only offer 1 week vacation saying “use your vacation for the company-required quarantine” is…not cool.

    3. Governmint Condition*

      Where I work, they passed such a rule. However, they passed it retroactively. It was passed on one day, and applied to people who had traveled up to two days prior. That’s ex post facto in my book. You can make the rule going forward, but not backward. Anybody who traveled before the rule was passed should have been exempted from charging time. (People quarantining otherwise get free time off.)

    4. Mediamaven*

      I actually wish that Alison would do this question as a separate topic. I’ve been wondering how to handle this myself. I had an employee travel to a hot spot and inform me that she would be quarantining for two weeks when she returned. We aren’t back in the office yet although people are coming in if a small mailing project needs to be completed so I let it go but I was a little taken aback. Like, how do we handle that when we do reopen the office? We can’t prohibit people from traveling forever but I don’t feel comfortable with someone just informing me they won’t be in for two weeks (assuming we eventually open things up). Anyway, its a good question.

    5. What's with Today, Today?*

      This is interesting. I’m in Texas, and vacations are happening normally. My boss took a week vacation two weeks ago (Destin) and my co-worker took one last week (San Antonio with 12 family members). We only get a week per year, and my boss couldn’t afford to have a staff member quarentine after. I’m the chairperson for our local Chamber of Commerce, and haven’t heard of one local business quarentining people after travel. I don’t agree with it, but non-essential summer vacations have not stopped in the south. Probably why we are in the red zone.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        Yeah… I’m in North Carolina and people are taking their summer vacations as per usual. Two of my colleagues were on vacation last week; I didn’t ask where because I don’t want to get mad at them.

    6. OP*

      This is our policy as well! Our part-time employees also receive paid leave for quarantine due to exposure or being diagnosed. Only quarantine after elective personal travel requires use of PTO or, if the employee does not have PTO like in this case, unpaid leave.

  28. Jh*

    What he believes about a true virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people globally, with America having the most cases in the world, does not matter.

    The virus is here and it’s real. People like him are putting us all in danger. People like him are making it harder for us to get out of this. I was due to visit my family overseas today and I can’t because foreign countries are imposing quarantines and bans on Americans because this country has handled this terribly and recklessly. People like HIM.

    All I want to do is see my family and hug my aging parents. When will I see them again? Idk, depends on when people like him stop their idiocy. Maybe I won’t see them again? If something happens to my parents while America dances around like idiots and is unable to separate fact from opinion, I am done with this country.

    I have a choice as to where I can live. I am so over what has happened here and the division over the last few years and the disregard of human life. Everyone’s life is on hold because of morons like your employee. We are missing out on precious moments, losing our jobs, losing our homes. Truly awful example of humanity we are witnessing right now.

    I was already furious about this administrations cruel games they are playing with immigration. I clearly do not belong here nor am I wanted here.

    1. Katiekaboom*

      If you have the option, then you should leave. I’m not saying that In a bad way. I am American and the last 4 years have me rethinking a lot and having to go into therapy bc of this administration. There are much better options than America out there, and if I didn’t have family here, I would be gone. Do what you have to do to make yourself feel comfortable.

      1. pancakes*

        That is not a realistic option for many, many, many people. It’s also consistent with some of the most appalling things about this administration. It’s exactly what a certain leader said years ago in a an interview when asked about people worried about their jobs in the coal industry disappearing: just leave, just go do something else.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      I’m so sorry. I wish I could say something better or more helpful or useful. This administration is evil, and so are the people who brought it to power and continue to cheer for its atrocities.

    3. Jaybeetee*

      Canada welcomes you, complete with universal healthcare and a similar tax rate to the US anyway. We also have maple syrup.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        Thanks for posting that- I needed this today. I’m a fighter, but sometimes knowing I could leave really helps.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I would say come to the UK but….we’ve got horrible weather, a nationwide tea addiction, a strange love of complaining constantly and mismanaged Covid and brexit going on….

      National healthcare is nice though.

  29. Dust Bunny*

    This is not really any different than if he refused to wear safety goggles or a hard hat or didn’t wash his hands between patients or any of an endless number of other safety measures that long predated COVID-19: He’s not following office safety rules. Period.

    This jerk’s freedom ends at my nose. He is not free to transmit the virus to me.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I’ve been thinking of that quote the whole time I’ve been reading comments, so I’m glad to see someone else on the same wavelength. “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        YUP. That is what the self-absorbed freedumb crowd alway forgets. The only way to make them remember is to make them suffer for it.

  30. Nea*

    OP, I think you’re letting the word “coronavirus” and its implications overshadow what is going on here. He is:

    1) Flouting company policy. By “forgetting” until reminded again and again, he is repeatedly refusing to follow orders.

    2) Bullying co-workers. By “criticizing and mocking” them he is bullying – and he’s doing so specifically because they ARE following company policy!

    2) Falsifying reports. By failing to report his travel he is defacto giving the company incorrect information.

    It doesn’t matter if the company’s policies are about COVID-19 or a CEO’s mandate to wear only yellow on Thursdays. Three counts and he’s out!

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Yes! So he’s at work, criticizing and making fun of people who wear masks..but he “forgets” he has to wear one?! You are looking at co-workers wearing a mask.

  31. Quill*

    *Flees screaming from this guy.*

    If you had a surgeon who refused to scrub in for surgery, you’d fire him on the spot, correct? This guy is approaching that level.

  32. sofar*

    Based on his behavior AT the work place (not wearing a mask, not distancing), you have grounds for firing him. I like that Alison brought up the travel thing. It’s hard to control what people do in their time NOT at work and, obviously, people aren’t going to be fully transparent with their travel plans if it involves not getting paid. So stop fretting about where he is on weekends, go with what he’s doing AT work, and fire him. He’s given you plenty of reasons.

  33. Helen J*

    I’ll echo others- FIRE HIM. My husband had COVID, it’s not a hoax. All of those in hospitals, on ventilators fighting for their lives knows it not a hoax, the families of the 143,000+ people who have died knows it’s not a hoax. He is endangering your entire staff and he needs to go. He can go complain with the other conspiracy theorist.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I had COVID. Spouse and I both thought I was literally dying (as in, put my affairs in order) and it took around seven weeks for me to be able to walk to the end of my street. I am still not back to full health after four months.

      My case is classed as “mild”.

      So it’s hard for me to separate my emotions from this.

      But actually, it doesn’t matter who’s right. If the employer requires masks as the price of entry to work, you comply or you get a new job. Same as if your employer mandated logo polos or black pants or covered-toe shoes.

    2. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

      My sister had it. My stepdad just got diagnosed and I’m hoping my severely immuno-compromised mom can avoid it. My sister figures she’ll probably get it again this fall/winter because she works in a hospital and people are dumb as hell.

  34. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

    Before I read Allison’s answer, I said ‘he’s got to go.’ Exactly that. He’s not going to change and he doesn’t care about others and it’s going to come back to bite your company in the butt if you keep him on, in many ways.

  35. JSPA*

    If someone thinks sexual harassment is a lot of noise about nothing or that one gender is clearly superior to another, they can think that between their two ears, or (depending on their role at work and their level of visibility) they even say so on their personal facebook. But they don’t get to opt out of the harassment guidelines, or make decisions about who they’ll work with based on gender–those actions remain a firing offense, regardless of belief system. Fired.

    If someone thinks racial “humor” belongs in the office, and acts on that belief, they get fired.

    “Regardless of your beliefs, there is zero tolerance for this behavior” is a normal part of managing people.

    If you’re feeling sympathetic because you know that WFH is not possible, and being paid to not work is also not possible, you can work to find some other solution to that policy. But dude seems to have either plenty of disposable cash (or someone willing to cover the bills) to take trips to hotspots every few weeks.

    If he has to sit home, do unemployment paperwork and put in job applications, you may be saving his life, as well as those of his coworkers.

  36. Keymaster of Gozer*

    (Slightly to one side though, I want to say that seeing everyone support keeping others safe, and not one post even slightly agreeing with Mr Hoax, has done absolute wonders for my mental state and hope today.

    You’re all amazing)

    1. juliebulie*


      Also thinking about what “freedom” really means. In think for many people the word has become conflated with “I can do whatever the hell I want without regards to the laws of nature, society, medicine, and physics.” Good luck with that.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Some people seem to think freedom = anarchy? I mean, the government “makes” you do things every day, even in America. If you wore pants, obeyed a road sign… America is (nominally) a free country, but since when did that mean zero laws?

      2. Shan*

        Exactly this. We’ve been having anti-mask protests up here in Canada as well, and I want to shout “Then just stay home! No one is forcing you to leave your house to go to the mall or to Starbucks!” They have the freedom to choose between two options, but what they want is the freedom to do whatever they want, and that just makes me so angry. I saw a sign the other day saying “END THE TYRANNY” and like… what? We’re just asking you to put on a mask when you’re out in public, for the safety of everyone, for (hopefully) a finite amount of time. If that’s the only “oppression” you’re experiencing, count your blessings and shut it.

      3. Quill*

        I do find it very telling that most people who think “freedom” means “I do whatever I want” already don’t have many societal barriers to them doing what hey want.

        And then they decide that say, physics should bend to their will.

      4. Temperance*

        Freedom to these people means “I don’t have to wear a cloth face covering when I go to Walmart because my freedoms” but also “gay people who expect wedding cakes to be made are terrible people and it’s a reasonable business decision not to support the gay community and they aren’t discriminated against in any way”.

        I admittedly do keep track of all the COVID deniers who catch it and die.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      Yes, I’ve never seen such agreement on AAM: we’ve reached 500 comments and still no one agrees with Mr. Hoax.

      And only 1% even suggest a script for giving him a last warning.

      I’m with the 99% who want no more talk, just that he get fired immediately.

  37. Veryanon*

    This is exactly how we’ve approached it with employees who are refusing to wear masks for whatever reason. Requiring masks is both our policy and the law of the state where we are (by executive order of the governor). Employees who don’t abide by the policy, which we believe is equivalent to any other PPE policy that we enforce, are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. We haven’t had to fire anyone…yet. I’m hopeful it will not come to that, but am prepared to do so if needed.

  38. GreenDoor*

    And important factor here is that he openly mocks people who are adhering to the mask and distancing reaquirement. We’re back in the office at my place, and it’s clear that COVID has taken a huge psychological toll. Add it up – those of us who know someone who was sick, all the missed holiday celebrations, graduations, summer fun. Those of us who have lost loved ones and couldn’t hold a funeral. Bills piling up from lost wages. If nothing else, this has had huge impact on employee morale. The last thing you need is some a$$hat in the office openly mocking people who are COVID-weary and just trying to do their best to stay healthy and safe. I agree – it’s time to cut this guy loose. Plenty of unemployed people in your area would love to have his job and be willing to follow your policies!

  39. WellRed*

    Pandemic or not, you have an employee who MOCKED his coworkers. Why is he still there? Added in that he’s part time? Let him go already or be prepared to lose GOOD employees.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Fire him. His beliefs don’t enter into it, he’s not complying with office policy, he’s openly flaunting it and bullying people who are wearing masks and social distancing.
      Fire him now, before you start losing good employees who comply with the policy but who are sick of seeing a weak management that doesn’t actually enforce it. The policy’s a dead letter until people see that it’s actually enforced.

  40. Akcipitrokulo*

    He is not facing consequences of his beliefs.

    He is facing consequences of his ACTIONS.

    1. IsItOverYet?*

      and your other employees will also face the consequences of his actions in your own work place unless you get rid of him (sadly you can’t protect society at large from him and other like him)

  41. Almost Empty Nester*

    Fire him for insubordination. Full stop. His particular beliefs do not matter. I tend to think masks aren’t especially helpful, but if my management tells me to wear them, I will wear them. Because they pay me, they get to tell me what to do.

  42. Mary*

    OP please update us. Hopefully you’ll do it before he gets to affect the lives of his co-workers.

  43. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    This is a business and the business enforces the rules. He doesn’t have to agree with it, or have to like it. But the bottom line is that if he doesn’t follow the rules, you enforce consequences which includes firing him. That’s what people throwing temper tantrums in stores for being asked to wear masks don’t understand. Yes you have a choice. You don’t have to wear a mask. But the business has a choice too and it’s their right to ask you to leave (or not even let you in) if you refuse to abide by their rules. It doesn’t not violate your rights.

    And I disagree about Alison’s side note. If it was a business trip, then yes a company should pay for that person to quarantine at home for 2 weeks upon their return. But if someone chooses to go on vacation, then they face the consequences of their choice, including 2 weeks off without pay if there is no vacation or sick time available to use.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      *doesn’t violate your rights. Apparently rage typing leads to mistakes.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, I’m not saying employers need to pay for it. I’m saying they need to be realistic about how not paying for it will disincentivize people from being totally forthright in their plans.

  44. Daniel*

    Oh my goodness. We’ve seen stories about toxic employees, but this is the first one I’ve seen who’s been literally toxic.

    There isn’t much that I can add to the commentators above, but OP, I wonder–how did we get here? You’ve let this guy be a classic broken stair. Please don’t let yourself (and your health, and your coworkers, and your coworkers’ health) be held hostage to this clown. I mean, ridiculing other coworkers for wearing mandated PPE? No. No.

    I can’t imagine this (part-time!) guy was some superstar before the Covid crisis, or that he can’t be replaced.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I once worked in an office attached to a warehouse and would often have to go out into the warehouse to pull inventory. My boss had a hard time retaining good warehouse guys (because he didn’t want to pay them well). There was one guy that would constantly ignore safety rules and seemed to be a lazy person in general. If he was the one driving the forklift, I would turn around and go back in to the office. I hated being around him in the warehouse because I just KNEW he was going to get himself or someone else hurt. But my complaints fell on deaf ears because my boss didn’t want to fire him. Luckily I found another job and didn’t have to stick around that place. The OP needs to recognize that keeping this guy is upsetting their other employees, and that may backfire.

  45. Aurora Leigh*

    I have a lot of coworkers like this. Since firing everyone but a few isn’t really an option — they told everyone if you’re not wearing your mask, and wearing it properly (except when eating or drinking on break) you’ll he sent home without pay. Doesn’t stop what they’re doing once they walk out the door, but helps.

  46. Manana*

    I find it hard to believe that he is a good employee in general and that he has not already caused morale issues at your work. Get rid of him before he kills some one.

  47. Ranon*

    There’s a solution to the two week quarantine, and it’s cheap, fast, nearly universal testing. Dr. Michael Mina made a fantastic case for both the what and the how on episode 640 of This Week in Virology, it’s really worth a listen if you’re at all interested in the technology of testing and the public health implications.

    In the meantime, though, unpaid 2 week quarantine is definitely a problem. 2 week paid work from home seems like a much better approach, even if it means coming up with some sort of marginally productive task for folks who otherwise need to be on site- catch up on/ get ahead on mandatory training? Drop off files that need sorted at their house? Might take some creativity but going unpaid seems like it would create more problems than the money you save by not paying your employees.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      How can you do that without enough people to run the PCRs though? Very few countries have been able to keep up.

      1. Ranon*

        There’s some non PCR options (that you could self administer and interpret, a la pregnancy tests), plus pooled testing- definitely listen to the episode, it’s super interesting! He gets into clinical versus screening tests, what we need in test sensitivity for public health needs versus individual treatment needs, it completely changed how I was thinking about testing and what we could do if we tried.

    2. Observer*

      None of this is remotely relevant, though. Testing is out of the hands of the OP and their company. Jumping through hoops to help this guy work from home is a lot to ask – and that’s the kind of effort you reserve for people who are otherwise really good employees.

      This guy is note REMOTELY “good”. And, even aside from the travel issue, he’s flouting explicit rules and he’s harassing coworkers – for following the riles, no less! The answer to this is simply to ENFORCE THE RULES AND DECENT BEHAVIOR.

    3. Colette*

      Even if fast testing were readily available, I doubt it would be useful as a way to avoid quarantine. I am not an expert on viruses, but I assume you’d have to both be exposed and have time for the virus to infect you to a point where it could be detected on a test, so if you were exposed today, went back to work tomorrow, and developed symptoms next Monday, a clear test today wouldn’t stop you from exposing others.

      With respect to the unpaid quarantine, I disagree that the company should find a way to pay in this circumstance, where the employee is making repeated, frequent trips for entertainment; they’d be paying him not to work all the time.

    4. Manana*

      This guy has taken multiple trips though (I think 3?) which means he would have 6 weeks of paid “quarantine time” at home. Also testing doesn’t tell you when you got it, when you’ll be over it, if you’re contagious, or if you’ll catch it again.

    5. allathian*

      There’s one alternative to testing that hasn’t been mentioned yet, sniffer dogs. Google “sniffer dogs covid” and you’ll get a number of articles on this. It’s obviously not a universal solution, but could be implemented on airports, train stations, etc.

  48. Stephen!*

    “I’m worried about him continuing to travel but not reporting it as required by company policy…”

    You need to not cover for him; now your judgement is called into question, too. Let him suffer the consequences of his actions.

  49. CrapIForgotMyAwesomeUserName*

    Honestly I’d go ahead and get rid of him. And – full disclosure – I don’t think COVID is a big of a deal as the media claims it is. But this isn’t about COVID – it’s about following procedures and company policies. I can sit here and whine and moan all I want about policies and but the reality is they still need to be followed. It’s also about being smart. Just because he thinks it’s a hoax doesn’t mean he has to flaunt it and be an asshat. I still practice social distancing, and I’ve washed my hands more often than normal and used way more hand sanitizer than normal because it’s not going to hurt anything/anyone and if it helps, great. I’m not traveling to any big cities (I live in the boonies) and even though my husband and kids are planning a fishing trip, they’re purposely avoiding big cities and will be camping and generally avoiding people so still, ya know, acting like people that at least respect that other people may be taking COVID more seriously than we are.

    But I digress. This guy’s an ass and should be treated as such. Get rid of him.

    1. Willow*

      There are more than 3.8 million coronavirus cases in the United States and more than 140,900 Americans have died from COVID-19. If this isn’t a big deal, I don’t know what would be.

      1. CrapIForgotMyAwesomeUserName*

        I’m not saying it’s not a big deal. IMO it’s not AS big of a deal as media is portraying it to be.

        I have a cousin who’s a nurse and has traveled to NYC and is now in San Antonio helping out. Another cousin has a son that is very much in the “oh crap we REALLY don’t want to get this disease” group. I 100% agree it’s a Big Deal. It’s just not (again, IMO) so big of a deal that justifies some of the actions taken.

        But regardless – this guy is an ass and should be fired.

        1. soon to be former fed really*

          Pandemics occur once every 70-100 years. Its a big deal, it anything it’s underplayed. Without some of the actions taken, all of which are justified, many more would be dead or maimed.

          Mitigation efforts are aimed at preventing the pandemic from killing enough people so that folks like you finally believe it is a big deal.

          Living in a remote area with few cases does not mean it isn’t a big deal. The world is a lot smaller than you think it is, as is America.

          We stay home until there is an effective contact tracing program, efficient, timely, and adequate free testing, and a vaccine. Haven’t you seen what happened when folks rushed to get back to “normal”? There’s nothing normal about any of this.

          I don’t live in a congested area, but I am older with several risk factors and I find any minimization of this natural disaster being exacerbated by human ineptness completely unacceptable. Not a big deal to you is an extremely big deal to the sick and dying and unemployed.

        2. Oxford Comma*

          In the space of 6 months, Covid-19 has taken more American lives than those killed in Vietnam or World War I.

      1. CrapIForgotMyAwesomeUserName*

        Very true. I probably should have said that I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as some of my friends/family think it is, but I was trying to be nice lol.

        I have friends (and family) on either end of the spectrum – some insist that wearing masks and social distancing is a bunch of hooey and infringes on their civil rights and blah blah and some insist that wearing masks and social distancing is life-saving and we should all stay home and do nothing until …? I’m in the middle, and definitely think it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. I absolutely admit that I view the COVID situation from a place of privilege because we don’t have many cases here (because there’s literally no people here lol). I’m lucky to have a steady job and income that is not at all under risk of going away because of the economy, and I recognize that colors my view of the situation in general. I would very likely think and act differently if I lived in a city or area that is more affected. My company does require social distancing but does not require face masks and extra cleaning, etc., and I do it because regardless of my personal beliefs, those are the rules. If my company said “you have to do 5 jumping jacks a day” I’d think it’s stupid, but I’d do it because it’s not that big of a deal.

        anywho – the “restrictions” aren’t really that big of a deal IMO and if Asshat Guy doesn’t like it, he should leave. Or be fired. At the very least, put on the stupid face mask and mutter about how you think it’s stupid and go on with your life.

    2. Susana*

      OK, “media” person here. On what planet do you think the “media” is making this a “bigger deal” than it is? This isn’t opinion; it’s numbers. Well over 140K dead in the US – that’s 2 and a half times the number killed in Vietnam over the length of the way. Hit 1,000 daily deaths Tuesday .
      So you either think there’s a massive media conspiracy, including performances by epidemiologists, doctors and nurses across the nation, ambulance drivers, families of those dead, governors , etc. to make up deaths, or you just don’t think 140K-plus leads with cases and daily deaths going back UP to be a “big deal.” In which case… I don’t know what to say.
      Or maybe because you live in the self-described “boonies,” and no one you know has died or gotten very sick (I’ve known two people personally who have died from this, not counting family or friends of my friends) – so just don’t care about how devastating this is for others? Again, don’t know what to do with that either, but it’s a virus. So it doesn’t stop in Mayberry just because it’s a small town. And wondering if your “boonies” home has a state of the art hospital with sufficient ventilators (and a morgue).

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        Well said. This poster has infuriated me. And the thread was going so well!

      2. pancakes*

        Yeah. This commenter’s reply to me indicates that they were referring to the media as a proxy for their own friends and family, but I’m not following as to why it would be nicer to try to throw an entire industry under a bus instead, particularly when the friends and family presumably aren’t here and aren’t going to recognize themselves in an anonymous comment.

  50. OrigCassandra*

    If you don’t get rid of this guy, OP, you open the door to more malingering. Your other employees are watching, and some of them may hold the same beliefs as this guy but be less open about them. Let him slide, and they’ll be encouraged to disobey as well.

    Please fire him — because if nothing else, you need to keep your authority intact on this, and you don’t need ongoing hassle!

  51. Jaybeetee*

    He’s flouting policy and antagonizing colleagues. You don’t need to convince him Covid is a real thing. Fire him and let him conspiracy-theory elsewhere.

    1. nep*

      This times a million.
      You don’t need to convince him COVID is a real thing.
      That’s not on you, LW, in any way whatsoever–not a factor here.

  52. Gazebo Slayer*

    Fire his sorry ass.

    A certain segment of the American public is deeply delusional, pathologically selfish, viciously bigoted, and proud of all of the above. They are destroying this country. It’s time to ostracize them and cut them out of our society.

    1. pancakes*

      I’m with you on the second sentence but I have no idea what you mean by the last one. People like this are not going to evaporate no matter how much the rest of us would prefer it. There’s not a backup society or a parallel universe we can banish them to, either.

        1. pancakes*

          How? I find it particularly frustrating that so many people who have a chance to communicate directly with people like this guy in the letter—because they’re friends, family, acquaintances, or coworkers—seem to be hoping that someone else will step in and have the confrontation they’re unwilling to have, or make the break they’re unwilling to make. There are a couple people in these comments who’ve mentioned they’re friends with people like this on social media and can’t even bring themselves to unfollow. As I said above, I think it’s unlikely that people with extremist views like these regard the silence of their friends and acquaintances as disapproval. It seems to only reinforce their idea that their extremist views are more popular than they in fact are. It also reinforces delusions that they’re being courageous or admirably bold by rejecting expert guidance on public health.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            We minimize their influence by giving them natural consequences. Won’t wear a mask to work? You don’t work here anymore. Post anti-vaxx nonsense on your FB feed? Your kids can’t play with my kids anymore. Talk a bunch of racist nonsense? You’re not welcome in my home.

  53. No Names Here*

    I have a guy here who did the same thing. Ultimately I told him he’s allowed to have his own opinions, BUT this is how his employer is choosing to address the situation. He can either follow the policy or risk his job. He took it to heart and I haven’t heard a word about it from him since to me or anyone else in the office.

  54. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    If he’s not willing to follow the policies and procedures of your company, I guarantee you that there are hordes of people out there right now who will. Replacing him is well worth the time & effort it will take and you will see the returns in peace of mind for yourself and your employees. More than likely you will find a replacement who is genuinely glad to be working with you and will happily comply with all reasonable safety measures asked of them.

  55. EnfysNest*

    This bit stood out to me: “He still won’t practice social distancing without being told, he will not wear a mask without being told…”

    The thing is, OP, he *has* been told. He’s refusing to do those things unless he is *told again right in that moment*, but he has no room to plead ignorance or claim that he hasn’t been told. Every time he doesn’t social distance or wear a mask, he is actively disobeying what you – his boss – have already told him to do. You don’t have to remind him, it’s not something that needs to be re-established every ten minutes. There’s no expiration date on what you told him to do. He’s not an errant puppy who has to be reminded yet again not to chew on the couch – he’s a grown man deliberately refusing to follow company policies and direct instructions from his employer.

    So reframe that sentence in your mind as “He refuses to social distance and he refuses to wear a mask as required.” Don’t soften your framing of what he is actively choosing to do.

  56. Sara without an H*

    I am at an absolute loss regarding how to get this employee to take these safety precautions seriously when he still sees the coronavirus as a political issue instead of a public health issue.

    The employee’s beliefs are irrelevant. You have a clearly-stated policy, and he has willfully and repeatedly failed to comply with it. You don’t need to “get” him to comply — you need to let him go.

    You cannot afford to allow one employee to not comply with company policies that apply to all employees. You cannot. Policies that are enforced selectively will poison morale like nothing else.

    Loop in your own manager, loop in HR, then get this guy off your payroll. Sooner, rather than later.

  57. Purrsnikitty*

    I’m curious about the very opposite issue. Someone mentioned how their boss doesn’t believe in Covid and is… well… forcing his employees to take the risks associated with his belief.

    I’m in a less dire situation where our office is pushing for the return of people who have been doing okay remotely so far. They have set up a very stringent set of rules to minimize the Covid risk, which is *great* for anyone forced to work on premise by the very nature of their job (well, great for health, not for comfort). I don’t understand why they feel it’s a good idea to bring back everyone. It seems they’re saying it’s “safe enough”. Personally, I can’t fathom how you can pull people out of the safest context (remote work, currently as safe as humanly possible?) and put them in a less safe one. No matter how many precautions you take, bringing people together in the same rooms is still going to be “risk+1”, right?

    So… if one were to oppose this, would that also be insubordination? Technically, I feel it’s the same situation: not following orders/policies based on personal beliefs. But is it really?

    For reference, the reasoning given so far is:

    – People are going cuckoo crazy in their homes, it’s time we see and talk to each other in a physical space!
    => Not all people are. My introvert self is actually doing much better :p. For those who really are driven crazy, well, okay, they may have to make a choice between risking their mental health or their physical health. But forcing that choice on everyone? Why?

    – As mentioned, they have taken every precaution possible.
    => Apparently, protecting oneself as much as possible reduces all risks to zero. Let me grab all the heat protection gear I can and jump in an active volcano, I’ll be right back :D

    – It’s not fair to the workers who have to work on premise because of the nature of their job.
    => Well… no, it’s not. But is the solution to expose everyone to the same health risk? Risk potentially killing people just to make it “fair”? Maybe give them a bonus for the sacrifice they’re making instead?

    – C’mon, it’s been months already!
    => And may it last months more if it means a maximum of people stay alive!

    – But if you don’t come back now, when then?!
    => Um… when it’s safe again? Is this really a matter of timespan when our remote-able jobs are barely impacted?

    For now, my insisting has led to being allowed to only come one day a week instead of 3-4 days as planned.
    I feel like I’ve negociated to play Russian Roulette once a week instead of daily. I feel SO safe.

    1. Observer*

      I could make the argument that if your employer puts their foot down and insists, it’s insubordination. So? Sometimes insubordination is not a bad thing, but you need to know the risks you are taking.

      And in this particular case, in distinction to your situation, the employee is being asked to do something that is truly not risky to him, so it’s a different calculation. Also, his behavior to other employees is inexcusable regardless.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      “It’s not fair to the workers who have to work on premise because of the nature of their job.”

      I would say you have a duty to those workers to have as few other employees on site as possible, surely?

      In the UK and London in particular there was an ad campaign asking people to avoid using public transport if they can (in favour of private vehicles or walking or staying at home) so those who have no choice have a lower risk taking the bus/tube.

      1. EBStarr*

        Yeah, “It’s not fair that a few people are taking a small amount of risk out of necessity, so we’re going to make everyone take a much higher risk unnecessarily by crowding them all into the office” is… a weird definition of fair.

    3. pancakes*

      The contract tracing center in Lanarkshire, UK where there’s been an outbreak might be a good example of why this approach makes no sense. I have no idea what the reasoning was for having people gather in an office to make calls they could make from home, but several have tested positive and the building is now closed for deep cleaning. People whose loved ones needlessly die in circumstances like these are not going to forget how it happened.

    4. WS*

      “It’s not fair to the workers who have to work on premise because of the nature of their job.”

      I’m one of those people who has to work on the premises. I certainly don’t want more people here raising my risk!

  58. Cass*

    You need to fire him immediately. As Alison said, this is no different than if he were choosing to ignore company safety protocols around hazardous chemicals. While he is at work he is not being paid to follow whatever his idiotic personal beliefs are, and last time I checked accommodating stupidity isn’t covered under the ADA. This is someone who is an open threat to the health and well being of you and your staff. Show him the door now.

  59. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Fire him. Seriously, he’s not just obnoxious, he’s dangerous. He’s also making others not just physically in danger of getting the virus, he’s making them mentally in danger due to his mockery of them.

    If someone is caught not social distancing after multiple warnings, send them home without pay. You don’t just keep giving verbal warnings, they are worth about as much as the paper they’re [not] written on.

      1. Wintermute*

        Precisely. This could very, very rapidly fall into impermissible hostile workplace territory if the source of an employee’s precautions is a protected disability or their association with someone with a protected disability.

  60. ExceptionToTheRule*

    Agree with Allison completely. It’s really not about the virus. It’s about him not following company safety protocol.

  61. Delta Delta*

    This guy sounds awful and toxic, and firing seems like a good response if he keeps this up.

    My suggestion to the company, though, is if the protective guidelines have not yet been adopted as official office policy/rules, to do that right away. Although most normal humans don’t want other humans to contract a horrible disease and die and will take steps to help prevent that, some people will only comply if there’s a concrete, in-stone “this is the rule and you must follow the rule” rule. I can see where without that, and if he gets fired, he heads to a creative lawyer who would find grounds for a termination suit. Would a wrongful termination suit be meritorious in a situation like that? I don’t know (mostly because I don’t do employment law) but I can see where between this guy’s overall attitude and a creative lawyer who may be aligned with his beliefs that this could turn into a headache.

    tl;dr – make the policy clear and get rid of this joker.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      All states but Montana have at-will employment, so chances are a wrongful termination suit would go nowhere. Unless you have a contract, an employer can fire you for anything they want unless it’s discrimination in a protected class or retaliation against whistleblowing.

      (Not a lawyer; this is as far as I know)

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Thanks! Yours is great too. Maybe someday when I level up I will slay windmills. :-)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Wrongful termination isn’t about At-will verses contractual worker.

        You can be guilty of a wrongful termination when firing someone that falls under discrimination statutes.

        In law, wrongful dismissal, also called wrongful termination or wrongful discharge, is a situation in which an employee’s contract of employment has been terminated by the employer, where the termination breaches one or more terms of the contract of employment, or a statute provision or rule in employment law.

        We don’t know if there’s an employment law we can stretch to fit this under because we haven’t dug around enough and there hasn’t been test cases yet.

      2. Delta Delta*

        I am a lawyer and I know this: people can and do sue for just about anything. A suit might go nowhere if filed, but it’ll still cost the company money and time and legal fees and a headache to defend it. This guy might just be the kind of guy for whom that’s good enough.

      3. Wintermute*

        it’s a LITTLE dicy in that courts have ruled having an employee handbook can be a contract of sorts and if you institute a progressive discipline process it could, theoretically, be wrongful termination if you step way outside of it. That said, any good corporate handbook written after consultation with legal will include clauses to forestall that, as well as have an insubordination policy written in such a way that flagrant refusal to obey orders is punishable by summary termination.

  62. agnes*

    I really like Alison’s framing this as a “failure to follow company policies” and the analogy of dangerous chemicals. Nobody is asking you to stop believing whatever you want to believe. We are telling you to adhere to a company policy and standard of behavior while in the workplace. Period.

  63. pcake*

    That employee could literally kill anyone you have with immune problems or with a relative with immune problems. I would be prepared to lose other employees if he continues working for your company; I’d be the first to hand in notice, and it would only be notice if I could work from home.

  64. Crackles*

    Release him now to find a job where “his rights are not violated”. There are a lot of great TEAM MEMBERS out there looking for work so don’t worry about not having someone to replace him.

    1. Wintermute*

      There’s a restaurant out in california that’s banned masks and gloves, if they haven’t been shut down by the time he gets there I’m sure they’d be happy to hire him.

  65. Bookworm*

    I think you have a case based on that he’s not following company policies. If he’s insisting that it’s about *his* freedoms, then I’d bet he’d be in a bit of a pickle that a private company (your letter uses company so I assume it’s a corporation and not a public government-type entity) has its rights to establish whatever reasonable guidelines it sees fit and following public health guidance would seem to fit the bill. I’m sure this may not fit your org exactly (I’m just a rando on the internet) but I think Alison’s answer is right.

    Good luck. I’m SO sorry you and your org have to deal with this. :( Hope it works out.

  66. LogicalOne*

    Ahhh yes. He’s one of “those people”. I don’t want to down a rabbit hole but yeah, I like everyone else feel that this employee needs to be let go. Personal pride is not something to get in way of work. Whatever you believe and whatever you do outside of work is your own business but when you’re at work or a public establishment, you need to adhere to the rules and policies set forth. I am tired of people saying “its a hoax”, “face masks are a sign of submission and so you’re letting the government control you”…blah blah.
    Either follow policy or good luck finding a job during a pandemic. This toxic behavior needs to stop. Immediately.

    1. Wintermute*

      absolutely, especially because if the reason the target of his mockery is being cautious is a disability or health risk factor he could be committing illegal workplace harassment under the ADA.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*


      They should ALL be fired, and their jobs should all be given to the many decent people who are unemployed. They created this crisis; they should suffer the consequences.

      1. bleh*

        Ah if justice were real, then the Virus Denier in Chief would not be here to make our lives discardable in the first place.

    2. nep*

      All the more reason for people who know this isn’t a hoax to be as careful as possible, and not enable the deniers in any way. Every little bit helps to slow the spread.

  67. Jenny*

    Fire him.

    My father in law is currently in the hospital with COVID. We’re basically in waiting t9 see if he gets better.

    A friend of mine, 32 and previously good health, is still experiencing breath issues from catching it in March. She’s a professional musician and her career could seriously be over because of this.

    Frankly if I had a coworker who did this and my employer did nothing, I’d consider quitting.

    1. nep*

      Same. I would consider quitting as well.
      Wishing your father-in-law a sound recovery, Jenny.

  68. JohannaCabal*

    Coronavirus requirements aside, the employee is being insubordinate.

    If he’s not going to take this seriously and disregard the rules, he’s likely to treat other company rules the same.

  69. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    Alison is absolutely right. I wouldn’t feel comfortable working with this guy. The people who keep saying that requiring that people wear a mask “violates their rights” are ridiculous. Do they realize that everyone has laws to follow, even in ‘Murica? Do they think they live in a state of anarchy where nobody can tell them what to do? We all have to follow the speed limit, pay taxes, and pay for items we take out of a store. Wearing a mask, social distancing, and other safety measures are simple ways to help keep us all safe. This guy is a complete ass.

    1. nep*

      Hear, hear.
      It’s utter nonsense this ‘freedom’ argument.
      In any case, in this instance, fully agree with other commenter–that doesn’t factor in at all. There are reasons for company rules; you don’t follow company rules, you’re out.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Exactly- companies have all kinds of rules you can get fired for not following. From dress codes to certain behaviors.

    2. Wintermute*

      And assuming, arguendo, that you did have some kind of fundamental right not to wear any kind of protection there’s two problems here– first, the government has the legal ability to abridge any right you have in pursuit of a “legitimate government interest” as long as they use the least restrictive means possible, and “avoiding piles of corpses in the streets” is a pretty damned legitimate governmental goal, while wearing masks and washing your hands is hardly restrictive at all. And second, it wouldn’t apply to a private company anyway, who can fire you for exercising most if not all of your rights.

    3. soon to be former fed really*

      Yeah, their rights to what? Give and receive a deadly disease? Beyond stupid.

  70. Donkey Hotey*

    A popular local relationship advice columnist has a recurring acronym: DTMFA. (Dump The MF*r Already).
    In this case, I would edit that to be FTMFA.

  71. Akcipitrokulo*

    “…how to get this employee to take these safety precautions seriously when he still sees the coronavirus as a political issue instead of a public health issue.”

    I think, for your own benefit, it will help to recognise that how he sees it does not matter.

    It is not a factor.

    I know it feels like it is – and he is playing on that – but it does not matter.

    Which means that whatever you do, when he tries to turn the conversation to the reasons/validity of masks, it will help if you do not engage. And it’s ok to interrupt, putting hand up if necessary:

    “You must wear a mask.”
    “But I don’t think…”
    “No. It doesn’t matter. You must wear a mask.”

    “Because you have refused to follow policies which have been made clear, we are letting you go.”
    “But those policies….
    “No. Your reasons are not relevant. You failed to follow policy.”)

    And you dO not need to feel bad AT ALL if he loses wages while in quarantine. You did not do that to him. He chose to do that to himself. You can even explain it in those terms

    “If you go on vacation, you are choosing to lose 2 weeks’ pay. Is that the choice you are making?”

    I hope you can get it sorted soon.

  72. Akcipitrokulo*

    (But I’d be looking either to fire immediately, or give final written warning that the next time he does not follow the rules, he is fired.)

    1. soon to be former fed really*

      For real! Me too! My default state is petrified, but I’m trying to live as “normally as possible, which does not include not wearing a mask around others or attending indoor gatherings (and outdoors for that matter), or traveling. I just celebrated a milestone birthday Monday and chose to cancel travel plans, I want to be here to celebrate next year.

  73. nep*

    Excellent point–it’s about an employee failing to follow company policy. Grounds for termination.
    Sorry you’re having to deal with this, LW.

  74. Rebecca*

    PA employee here, at a job that’s 100% able to be done from home. After 3 months of WFH, we were brought back to the office. For the past 4 weeks, I’ve dodged non mask wearing coworkers, worried what I might have touched and not sanitized, if the unmasked person who coughed in the 1 hallway I’m permitted to use just has allergies and/or smoker’s cough, or could it be COVID? Some coworkers, given the photos and things they share on social media, who were not distancing, not limiting travel, etc. My anxiety has been through the roof. I am grateful our governor made telework, where feasible, mandated again and I’m back home. I’m grateful that upper management gave us that choice. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I’m surrounded here by a contingency of virus doubters and hoax believers, partially since our very rural area isn’t affected much. I’d rather wear a mask and stay away from people as much as possible until a vaccine can be developed than find out first hand what this is all about.

    It helps to remember this: viruses don’t care if you believe in them or not. Viruses believe in you.

    1. soon to be former fed really*

      People who deny Covid 19 is real are right up there with the reprehensible heartless aholes who said the murder of children at Sandy Hook school was a hoax. These people need it to happen to them.

  75. crlfranu*

    At this point, you’d need to weigh the likelihood that he’d take the “this is your last warning” conversation seriously or if he’d just be better about hiding the fact that he’s ignoring safety precautions. Ask yourself how you’d feel & how your employees will likely feel if next week one of them tests positive. If there’s a chance that the reaction involves any amount of “why is he still here?” “why didn’t OP fire him already, this is OP’s fault!”, then I think you have your answer.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I don’t think a “last warning” is a good idea in this case. Lives are at risk and I don’t think you should waste so much as a day of letting him run around deliberately maskless to give him One More Chance.

  76. animaniactoo*

    OP, something I would like to point out – I think that you are trying not to fire him because your mindset is to try and keep everyone employed. Which is an excellent mindset to have.

    But you need to balance that on the other side with your employee’s attempt to keep themselves employed. Somebody having childcare issues is making a good faith effort to bring everything they can to the table. This guys is not.

    This guy, who is endangering others and flouting policies because of his own beliefs is not bringing everything he has to the table. He’s bringing what he wants to bring to the table. And you absolutely get to say that despite wanting to keep everyone employed – that’s not worth keeping him employed. Him. In particular. Because he, in particular, is making everyone else less safe – which then means that YOU are bringing less to their table of being able to stay employed.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t matter whether he agrees with you about this or not. Agreeing with you is not the goal. Having made the attempt is the goal, up to the point of reasonableness and a bit beyond it. You’re now far beyond it. At this point, your job is just to act, regardless of whether he agrees or not – because he has shown himself to be untrustworthy in the extreme on this issue (and with that kind of intransigence, I’m going to be it shows up in his work in other ways).

    Succinctly: It’s not your job to convince him to keep himself employed in the face of his own intransigence. That’s his job. Don’t take it on for him, that’s an unfair thing to do to yourself and everyone else around you. And yes, that will be unfortunate for him. But he had a way out that he chose – multiple times – not to take. You didn’t make that choice for him. He did.

    1. Wintermute*

      It’s also a matter of fairness. If he is fired you can choose not to contest his unemployment if you really want to be nice. But anyone who is forced to quit because they cannot risk their lives to this clown would be stuck without any financial support whatsoever.

  77. DAS*

    On the hoax part (not the openly flouting workplace safety rules part), you could try showing him these videos:

    **To be clear: This is not a serious suggestion. It’s more a source of entertainment for all us commenters and for Alison.

    And on a more serious note, I do wonder: Could the employer be sued for firing an employee over this? What about the liability protections that Republicans are talking about including in the next COVID bill – would that give an employee like the one described here a course of action for suing his employer?

    1. Nea*

      No, because nothing, not even pandemic, gives an employee the right to remain at a company when they have faced company policy with insubordination, treated coworkers with hostility, and been dishonest at the reporting that is now part of their job. Doesn’t matter why he did any of these things.

    2. pancakes*

      No one is going to be able to comment knowledgeably on hypothetical legislation. The form it might take and the language used would shape any answer to that question.

    3. Observer*

      An employer can be sued for anything, but the employee has zero chance of winning.

      On the pending legislation, I see nothing that forced employers to keep people who don’t follow company rules.

  78. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    Totally agree on the insubordination / fire him comments, but I just wanted to ask about this:

    when the company has asked us not to travel except in the case of emergencies

    There wasn’t any comment on it in the answer, or the posted comments so far. Is it a reasonable policy (for companies, in general, not specifically in relation to this guy) to ask people not to travel unless it’s an emergency – assuming that is more ‘stringent’ than the current public health guidance wherever they are? What could they restrict anyway – travel out of state? To visit relatives in the next town 2 hours away?

    It’s maybe a more general point about restricting activities outside of work, and I can see the motivation from a risk management point of view but not so much from an ‘overstepping’ one. Curious what are people’s thoughts about that?

    1. Temperance*

      Yes. This is absolutely a case where people’s activities outside of work can negatively impact the workplace. Anyone who feels differently can go pound sand and lick some doorknobs.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        But there’s always the chance for people’s activities outside work to impact the workplace… any time I interact with people in public, especially in the winter, when I go out to the grocery store, or the bank, or whatever — I am risking catching a heavy cold or flu – so should I be banned from going out? I should get all my groceries delivered rather than visit in-person? or be forced to have a vaccine in order to remain employed at this company (not going to happen, I’d resign or be fired before that.)

        I suppose the “company” has primacy in the order of things and then in order of diminishing significance it’s family, hobbies, pursuing professional qualifications, etc.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think in most cases, no, but in the case of this pandemic, yes. Certainly it’s hard to enforce, but I think it is reasonable to ask.

    3. Greetings from Eastern Bubbleonia*

      In-country travel restrictions have been totally normal in many regions of Canada since early in the pandemic. You have to quarantine for 14 days if you return from any trip out of province or region unless you are traveling for essential work. That applies even if the next province or country is five minutes from your house. I haven’t looked into it, but I think many employers in those areas don’t want you gone for 2 weeks because you wanted to have some fun.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      So even if public health policy currently allows said “travel”… the company can reasonably restrict it anyway? That seems a pretty poor showing really. Especially since the job “could” be done from home but the company are starting to bring people back, so exposing them to risk in their own way!

  79. Stormy Weather*

    Forgetting? Right, and I’m an alpaca.

    He needs to go. Being fired won’t make him understand that his opinion doesn’t Trump company rules. By accepting an offer from the organization, he agreed to follow the organization’s rules. He’s not. He’s also teasing employees which is causing a hostile environment and has been proven to be dishonest.

    Make sure you find out if you’re required to put him on a PIP before he goes. Legal should definitely be involved because he’s deluded that his opinion has more weight than rules he agreed to.

  80. MCMonkeyBean*

    I feel like I need some clarification on this piece:
    “He still won’t practice social distancing without being told, he will not wear a mask without being told”

    Does that mean that he *does* do those things as long as you tell him to? If so that seems like much less of a problem if you just make sure to be clear that he has to do those things.

    That really just leave the piece about being afraid he will travel and not report it. That’s harder to address I think. If you know he is doing that I agree it’s definitely a fireable offense to go against the safety policies in that way, but if all you have is a feeling the might do that you can’t really address that head on…

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      He’s *been* told. “My own boss has also spoken to him about needing to obey safety policies, but he still ‘forgets’ to do so until someone tells him.” Meaning he is having to be told *repeatedly* to obey those policies.

    2. OP*

      Yes, he “forgets” frequently but he does comply as soon as he is told to put on his mask or to step back.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        So how old is he, five?
        He’s an adult. He needs to be held responsible for following the rules. Like an adult. Don’t remind him, just fire him.

  81. Tidewater 4-1009*

    I’m sure this has been said and I’m saying it again: Fire him now. He has had more than enough chances.
    His attitude shows he’s not going to change. He might get sneaky about traveling and breaking the rules, but he won’t change. If I was one of your employees, I would not be willing to come back to the office until he’s gone.
    Fire him now!

  82. Nanani*

    The longer you wait to fire him, the more likely it is your good employees will jump ship to an employer that doesn’t let assholes put their lives and health at risk.

  83. phira*

    Two things worth pointing out–one that Alison made but I think is worth expanding on.

    – Alison’s 100% right that firing someone just for taking risks would be the wrong choice. All of us are taking risks and trying to decide which risks to take given our own situations. I know people in my position who are having all groceries delivered, whereas I’m still going to the grocery store; some people are getting haircuts and I’m not, etc. So I’m glad that Alison made that point, that it’s not about the risks themselves, it that he seems to be willingly endangering his coworkers and cannot be trusted to follow the rules. And the company rules themselves are actually not about stuff like getting haircuts or buying groceries!

    – I agree with Alison that not giving people paid time off to quarantine is going to disincentivise people from reporting travel. I think it would be great if your company would offer paid time off for any employee, including part time employees, who had to quarantine after emergency personal travel. But what this employee is doing is NOT emergency travel; he’s going on unnecessary vacations. So while I think it’s a crummy policy, I don’t think it’s really playing in here because it sounds like even if he did have PTO for quarantine, he wouldn’t do it.

  84. AllerDerm*

    That guy has to go. By not firing him after multiple warnings what other employees are absorbing is that management, at best, doesn’t care about their other employees or their health and, at worst, agrees with this guy and thinks Covid is a hoax. It’s not good for morale. It sucks to fire people, especially during a pandemic. But this guy is making his own bed and needs to be held responsible for his decisions. Unless, of course, you’d prefer the possibility of a lawsuit due to an unsafe working environment if this guy does make someone sick.

  85. CW*

    Fire him right now. That attitude is not only out of line – given the challenging time we are in – but he puts the entire office at risk. Don’t delay. Let him go and hire someone else. He has no excuse for such behavior.

  86. BelleMorte*

    What would you do if you had an employee who refused to wear safety equipment and actively mocked those who do wear it? For example, safety harnesses, hard-hats, steel toed boots, welding masks or gas masks or refused to follow safety rules such as keeping the security doors locked or not letting in people without identification?

    This is no different.

  87. jiminy_cricket*

    Anyone in healthcare who doesn’t follow PPE rules would be fired. So should he be. Letter writer is letting the employee’s opinion that Covid-19 is a political issue – which it is not – influence their decision-making. Don’t let them cloud you: this person is toxic, demonstrates poor judgment, and flagrantly disregards policies he doesn’t like. Bye bye.

  88. CynicallySweet7*

    If you want the perspective of an employee… If I was working there and you told me that I had to come back to the same office as him I’d quit on the spot. Historically bad job market or not.

    I want to stress that I’m currently in a financial position where I could do that, but that hasn’t always been the case. I urge u to think of ur emplyees that don’t have that option.

    If I just knew about the stuff from March I’d be wary but would probably come back, but u can bet I’d be watching him/how mgt handles this like a hawk.

    If it makes a difference I’m 30, generally healthy and do not have a pre existing conditions.

  89. Scarlet*

    Yassss thank you Alison. This is the hard line everyone needs to be taking. I will never understand why Coronavirus is so political, but yes, please OP, please do what Alison said. You owe it to the rest of your employees and frankly, yourself. You deserve to be as safe as can be – no use surrounding yourself with people who will jeopardize that.

  90. I Need That Pen*

    As a coworker I would want to see this issue dealt with. If he’s this deluded about the pandemic and laughs at everyone who is following the rules, he’ll be the one going around saying his nagging cough is just seasonal allergies.

  91. AllieJ 0516*

    Fire him, and TRESPASS him. Your office is private property, you make the rules, he has to follow them. No more chances. Let him try to sue.

  92. Anonymo*

    You are employing a facist. Treat him as such.

    And even if you don’t agree that he’s a facist, he doesn’t deserve more chances to get people sick (with a life threatening virus!!!) – you need to fire him right now.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      You’re doing everyone a disservice by using a word you don’t know the definition of. Please educate yourself.

      You *might* be able to make a case that OP’s employee is anarchistic, but the only evidence we have points to idiocy.

      1. blaise zamboni*

        I would argue you’re doing the same disservice by saying he’s anarchistic. This has nothing to do with hierarchies and none of the anarchists I know advocate for breaking expert advice.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Anarchy is a system with no authorities or governing, and by ignoring the authorities above him, OP’s employee would be acting consistent with that philosophy. One example and facet do not a proof make.

          I stand by the statement that the only real evidence we have points to idiocy.

          1. blaise zamboni*

            Nope. Anarchy is about no unjust hierarchies and promoting equality for all, not about “no rules.” There absolutely is self-governance in anarchist groups, it’s just agreed upon by all the members. Just want to make that really clear because it’s such a big misconception. (And, wasn’t trying to out myself but I know this…as an anarchist, myself.)

        2. pancakes*

          Yes — nearly all of the medics at our local protests & a great many of the people collecting and handing out fresh masks, first aid supplies, etc. are anarchists. I’ve never met an anarchist who is anti-mask.

  93. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP, Let’s not forget that YOU are also violating company safety policy. Why are you not doing what you are required to do with tracking who goes on vacation? Tell him you’re going to start enforcing the rules and then do it. It’s his choice. It’s if he comes back with a disease and you don’t report it, it’s on you as much as on him.

    1. OP*

      I caught all three of his vacations so far before he left and reported them, removed his shifts from the schedule, and had him barred from the building during the quarantine periods (the mention about not isolating was in regards to government requirements, as he knew not to come to work but he was still out elsewhere in the community the same day that he returned). I am worried about potential shorter, weekend trips in the future, which he did frequently pre-pandemic. I’ve told him that these trips count as travel and need to be reported, but even if I ask him regularly I will still need to rely on him to share that information (the trips themselves don’t conflict with work time).

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Sounds tough to check – I am glad you are doing what you can to investigate and protect other employees.

      2. Finland*

        OP, you’ve said that you don’t trust him to tell you the truth about his travels; he fails to follow the bare minimum safety protocols, and needs repeated nagging to (barely) comply; and he harasses others who do comply. He is a liability to everyone (including you) and after all this, I still don’t get the sense that you’re willing to fire him. Why is that?

  94. Luna*

    Get rid of him. If he cannot follow the rules laid down by the job, and guidelines are rules, then he doesn’t get to have the job.

  95. Bob*

    I like Alison’s comparison to safety protocols for dangerous chemicals. Very apt.

    That said talking to him again is pointless. You will not change his reality denial, and if he were to agree it would be a fake promise. He will simply stop talking about what he is doing and continue to do it, just behind your back. He may even complain about how good he is doing when in fact he is taking even bigger risks or even attending covid parties (if he has not already). Do not underestimate the deviousness of people who choose to believe lies. Its demonic but truthers who pretend to acquiesce will in fact often go the other way even harder while lying about it because they need to keep their house of cards alive while sticking it to the man.
    You need to let him go. But consult an attorney to make sure you are dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s. He will sue to get his job back because from his point of view your letting him go because he is telling the truth that the virus is fake. He believes his own lies more strongly then the rest of us believe facts.

  96. Bowserkitty*

    Sounds like my neighbor, who I also occasionally work with. aghhhhhhhhh

    Definitely going to attempt some of these talking points.

  97. Them Boots*

    We had an employee like this, and we have clients with asthma, heart issues and one has a significantly damaged lung. My boss talked to her once to lay out the new rules and watched. Warned her at the next talk and after another day (1) of her not following the ground rules, laid her off with a return date of ‘after there is a vaccine everyone can access.” There were tears and my boss is a softy, but she couldn’t stomach keeping this woman on staff who was risking people’s lives. We all breathed a sigh of relief because, yeah, we were scared to be working with her.

  98. loislolane*

    My workplace has a reasonable policy surrounding the two week quarantine and getting paid – simply put if you need to be on a 2 week quarantine it will be paid unless you willingly put yourself in a situation that would require a quarantine. I feel like that’s pretty fair personally.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      “if you need to be on a 2 week quarantine it will be paid unless you willingly put yourself in a situation that would require a quarantine”

      …. that (willingly in a situation that requires quarantine) will describe 90%+ of people! The rules are very well stated and understood at this point.. but I expect people will find all kinds of reasons why they didn’t willingly put themselves in such a situation, so that they can be paid for it!

  99. Random IT person on the internet*

    I wish you could name and shame this poor excuse for a human being.

    WE – that is, my company, have lost 1 colleague in our group due to this (beep beep beep) virus.
    A man of 51, leaving behind a wife and 3 children.
    Several people had mild cases – and they stayed at home – and thankfully recovered.
    One colleague had a bad case, and is still recovering.

    Were I HR in your company – after the second breaking of the rules, he`d be out.
    (i have many many more words , but i`m afraid Alison would need to remove the comment if i truly spoke my heart here… )

  100. Lizzo*

    OP, you are probably a person who values fairness and kindness, which is why you keep giving him chances to do the right thing and comply with company policy. No matter how kind and fair you are, he is not going to comply. He is selfish, and he cannot be reasoned with, because the only reasons that matter here are his own.

    Please prioritize fairness and kindness to the rest of your team, whose work is probably suffering because they are living in fear, and whose health may ultimately suffer because of this asshat’s inability to give a hoot about anybody but himself and what *he* believes is right.

    Freedom of choice doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. Deliver him the consequences he deserves, and deliver them today.

  101. lilsheba*

    I agree, get rid of him, he is too much of a risk to others, and it’s not fair to everyone else. I personally would refuse to go into the office with a person like that.

  102. Long Time Lurker, Infrequent Poster*

    And they say the Corrupted Blood incident is unrealistic because people wouldn’t be jagholes on purpose.

    Oh sweet summer innocence of sociologists back then.

  103. Some Call Me Patricia*

    Apologies if this has been covered (I tried to read all the comments) – but I’m the frightened coworker in a similar situation. I am an employee whose coworker thinks COVID is just a bad cold, refuses to wear masks or socially distance, posts on social media about using herbs to manage the virus, writes that fat folx (I am fat) are dying through fault of their own and the government should mandate fat people lose weight before mandating masks… I do not feel safe working around him. My employer will not fire him. We have no HR department. Short of finding a new job (not a viable option for me right now), and tips/thoughts/suggestions on how to navigate this?

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