the head of my division gave me (and my niece and friend) COVID-19 and no one cares

A reader writes:

I’m working remotely but I had to go in for a once-a-year task that can only be done from the office and is legally required to be completed. While I was there, I ran into my division head (my manager’s manager). She said she was asked to quickly pick something by her manager. She was surprised to see me but when I mentioned what I was doing, she said she remembered my manager told her. She left and I continued working.

I have custody of my two-year-old niece. I’m on my own with her, but our building had been empty since we were sent home so I was fine with bringing her with me. She stayed in an office playing while I used the office and the printer room across from it. My manager approved this.

After I went in, I got sick. I asked a friend to take my niece because I felt so ill I couldn’t look after her as well as I wanted. My friend knew it was a risk, but she lives alone and works remotely and I didn’t even go near my friend when she picked up my niece. I tested positive and ended up in the hospital for a week. While I was there, my friend told me my niece was sick. She tested positive for COVID-19 and two days after my friend got sick and she tested positive too. Fortunately, neither of them needed to be hospitalized.

The trip to my office was the first time my niece and I had left the house since everything shut down. Before the pandemic, I already had my groceries delivered due to the convenience and that continued. I’ve chatted with neighbours over the fence but that’s outside and at least 20 feet away. If I talked to anyone else, it was over phone/email/text/video. The only person who came close to me was my division head. I only saw her for a few minutes and we didn’t get super close but it had to be her. My niece and I didn’t have close contact with anyone else or leave the house/backyard even once before this because we live in such a huge hotspot.

I’ve since found out from my manager, the division head’s manager, and HR that my division head had been going into the office every day for eight months since the pandemic despite the lockdown. Due to the rules here, only essential businesses could have workers that weren’t remote. She admitted to jamming the door so it could be opened without her card because the readers were locked. She was using the same empty office I did (no one used it pre-pandemic) every day because her own office would be recognized on video calls. If she had gotten in before me, I would have found her working in that office. She also often used the printer room, which I had used a lot the day I went in. Furthermore, she admitted she had not been feeling well but still didn’t stop coming in.

There are no words for how angry I am. I could have died. My niece and my friend could have died. My division head lives alone and had no reason to come in. She hid it from everyone. I was only allowed under the government rules because my task was legally required. Even the board of directors have not been allowed to come in. She admitted to interacting with my niece before talking to me in the printer room. I would have never let her near my niece. I would have used a different office and printer if I knew she was there and not well. She didn’t tell me she wasn’t feeling good.

She was even still going in when she knew I was in the hospital. But she is downplaying everything. She says everything turned out fine so there’s no need to be mad. My manager says I need to cut her some slack, and both HR and her manager say the matter is finished even though she got us sick and both she and the company had to pay fines to because she broke the rules.

She interacts with our team a lot, but I don’t want to have anything to do with her. If I didn’t have my niece, I would’ve already quit. I’m looking for a new job but in the meantime is there anything I can or should do to try and make my manager and HR understand how serious this is and how angry I am?

I’m so sorry. I would be furious too.

When I first started reading your letter, I thought your exposure was going to be accidental — I assumed you’d been infected when you ran into someone in the office while you both needed to be there and it was no one’s fault.

But your colleague had been secretly coming in every day for eight months against local rules, against company rules. She jammed the door so she could get in (!). She came in when she wasn’t feeling well. What is wrong with this woman? This is beyond having terrible judgment; she’s a menace, not to mention a legal liability to your company.

But wait, there’s more. She interacted with you and your niece without warning you she wasn’t feeling well. During a global pandemic that’s killing people. And now she says “everything turned out fine” after you spent a week in the hospital. (I know I’m overdoing it on the italics, but I Just Cannot.)

And now your manager says you should cut this person some slack? I mean, yes, if you are, like, plotting her violent demise, you should indeed back off of that, but otherwise you’re entitled to be really angry.

It’s not clear to me how your company has responded to this. It sounds like they were fined (good), but has anyone apologized to you? Has she apologized to you? Has she been stopped from coming in when she shouldn’t be there, and is she facing any discipline for that? It’s possible that your company has taken this seriously — that your division head faced some sort of real accountability for this and that they’ve put new procedures in place to make sure this can’t happen again — and if that’s the case, your manager and HR might be right that you and they now need to find a way to move forward.

If those things haven’t happened, ask for them. If you don’t get them … well, your company sucks and I’m sorry. You deserved oversight that wouldn’t have allowed this to happen in the first place, and you deserved a far better response once it did.

{ 412 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth West*


    Fire her. Fire her now. Fire her yesterday.

    If she was just coming in for a necessary reason and didn’t realize she was sick, that’s one thing, but she….I can’t even type right now, grrrrrr. She should be fired, immediately. The company can give her severance if they must, but they need to Let. Her. Go.

    I have had it with stupid-ass people. I can’t even.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      I mean, even if we set all the COVID horrificness aside (which, we Should Not because, Global Pandemic Duh) this lady was BREAKING INTO HER WORKPLACE and going to great lengths to conceal it (using a different office to hide her background). How is this not a ginormous liability and fireable offence all on its own?

      1. Littorally*

        Right! Like, even in completely normal, non-pandemic times, jamming the door so that the card readers wouldn’t work would all by itself, completely in isolation from every other thing here, be a fireable offense everywhere I’ve worked. She sabotaged their security. That is someone who cannot be trusted and needs to be fired ASAP, for employee and client protection.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          I also want to know how the security team didn’t know about the jammed door. Or if they knew, why they didn’t do anything about it. Isn’t that supposed to be kind of the point of a security system?

          1. Littorally*

            Agreed. In any halfway decent security system, that should have triggered an alarm within a few minutes to go fix the rigged door. WTF is going on with the whole company?

          2. Stefie25*

            If there is no other way to open this door except with a security card it might not have an alarm to alert security that it’s been opened. If she stuffed a cork or something into where the latch would go, the door would close all the way but be easily opened because it’s not latching shut. Security probably wouldn’t notice since it’s closed all the way & shows no sign of being tampered with. Also depends on what type of security. Someone just watching through a camera might think she was okay to come in since she’s the only one there.

            1. Stefie25*

              To add on, if it’s in a building with a few other offices it might be just doorman security. They could think she has special dispensation to work out of the office & not even notice that she isn’t using her keycard to access the office but is just opening the door. Plus he probably just checks the outside doors & as long as they’re fine & no one except this one woman is coming in, why would you check the interior doors.

            2. Anon for this*

              Which is why my department routinely adds “walk up to door and shove on it” as an extra step we take when conducting our audits (given that “see if you can get access to someone’s computer without anyone noticing” is already on there, pushing on doors can be interpreted as falling under getting access to a computer that is behind the door), and passes on any doors that fail to physical security.

            3. Bilateralrope*

              I work as a security guard. Every single electronically controlled door I’ve dealt with sends an alert to the control room if the door is left open too long. Usually, something near the door also starts beeping.

              Also there is the question of: How did she open the door the first time ?

              1. Anon for this*

                Based on previous information obtained last time I had to file an “I Broke Into The Secure File Room Again Please Fix This” report, often times the last person to leave before they know they’ll not have access to the key the next time will do something like this. Admittedly Secure File Room didn’t have an electronic lock, but some form of card taped in the latch or other object to prevent it from closing is apparently very quick to slide in there, and very hard to notice if you aren’t conducting an audit to see if you can break into the Secure File Room.

          3. Observer*

            I also want to know how the security team didn’t know about the jammed door

            That’s an excellent question! I’d love to know….

          4. Not So NewReader*

            Security is not doing a full physical check of the property. This assumes they have human security guards and not just a computer system.

            And I guess none of the security measures include motion detectors inside the building.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              I wonder if the company, because absolutely no one is supposed to go in but essential, has determined security non-essential? Banana-crackers, but so is know a high-level employee compromised building security and letting them continue to work there so…….

          5. Elliott*

            You’d think, but I can imagine them not knowing, depending on the field. My office has occasional problems with doors not locking because they don’t always shut completely. Nothing is triggered when this happens. I have to periodically remind people to make sure the door locks when they leave. I work for a state university, so our access to money to deal with this issue is limited.

          6. Lexie*

            Maybe there isn’t a security team. Maybe they felt the locks were enough. They might be able to access who used their cards and when they used them but don’t have onsite guards or surveillance.

        2. RC Rascal*

          What is an outsider took advantage of the jammed door and broke in and burglarized the place, or stole confidential material , or used the unlocked premise to commit a crime such as assault? Lots of problems here.

        3. Ladycrim*

          This! My office was broken into twice in 2019. We lost thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. Any employee caught intentionally jamming a door to prevent it from locking would have faced severe discipline and likely been fired. Pandemic wouldn’t have entered into it.

      2. Pinto*

        Yes, this exactly. This person would no longer be an employee in my company. She jammed the door, meaning she left that office subject to breach and theft every single day for months. I cannot comprehend how the leadership at your company is letting that go.

        1. Brad Fitt*

          Probably because “everything turned out fine.” It didn’t cost them any money, so they don’t want to take the (necessary!) costly step of replacing her. Luckily, LW can change that if they want to make a point.

          LW: How much of that hospital stay are you expected to personally cover? If it’s any amount, you should ask your employer to cover it since they allowed the security breach that led to you getting sick. This isn’t a normal workplace illness scenario, this is someone knowingly exposing you–and a two year old child–to a virus that has a high mortality rate, potentially lifelong complications even for people who have mild symptoms, and is at the root of a global pandemic. She did this because she believed her convenience was more important than other people’s lives. I would go scorched earth on this woman.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. Honestly she should be fired for essentially breaking into her place of employment and for deceiving everyone about which office she was using. She obviously knew she shouldn’t be there because she didn’t use her own office.

            I’m not sure about the US, but here if you knowingly spread a potentially fatal illness (there’s a list of communicable diseases that includes things like covid and hiv), you can be convicted of aggravated endangerment of health, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

      3. Swiper*

        Yes, I’m unclear why her workplace wouldn’t terminate her over this alone. If someone at mine had done this to get in after hours or on a weekend during normal times, it would have been an immediate termination and it’s we’re not working with highly sensitive information or risking legal issues if someone broke in. It’s just a regular safety and security issue!

      4. Observer*

        this lady was BREAKING INTO HER WORKPLACE and going to great lengths to conceal it (using a different office to hide her background). How is this not a ginormous liability and fireable offence all on its own?

        Yes. Very much this. So much, in fact, that I wonder if she’s not on a last chance basis that HR is not telling the OP about.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          If this put her on a last chance basis (which, again, no, fire her, she clearly knew what she was doing was wrong) wouldn’t the “giving a child COVID” thing be the firing icing on the “you’re a terrible employee” cake?

          1. Observer*

            Well, it SHOULD be firing on the spot. But many employers have all sorts of processes and procedures around firing that might keep them from doing that, even if it would make sense.

            1. Not A Girl Boss*

              Sure, but even when I managed union employees we had “do not pass go” clauses for unthinkably bad things like… breaking into secure areas.

      5. Cat Tree*

        At any place I ever worked, jamming the door to leave it open would be fireable, even without a pandemic. What if a competitor went through that door and stol proprietary information? I can’t imagine someone even thinking to do that once, let alone for 8 months.

        1. English, not American*

          Or what if someone broke in and took all the equipment. My workplace was burgled in late 2019 and they stole 1/3 of the company’s laptops since most people left them on their desks. After that we were “strongly encouraged” to take our work laptops home every evening, and there was a mad scramble to order more. The stolen laptops were securely encrypted, so basically useless to the thieves, but the impact on the business was still pretty significant.

        2. But There is a Me in Team*

          Yeah, no kidding. We had a purse snatcher rifling all the open offices in our building since the occupancy is way down, and some folks living in the parking garage. This woman is an egomaniac who thinks the place won’t function without her butt in a seat, and she’s like the drunk driver who kills 3 people and walks away without a scratch. Of COURSE she ended up not getting very sick. Aargh! OP when you get out please expose this goat rodeo on Glass Door, or equivalent as I got the impression you’re not in the US.

          1. But There is a Me in Team*

            Oh, and OP didn’t mention how much the bills were from being hospitalized but I’d politely demand the company cover that as well. A week in the hospital would max my out of pocket, probably push 5 figures.

            1. Brad Fitt*

              Had the same idea upthread, you beat me to it. :)

              I really can’t wait for all the ambulance-chasing /slip and fall/scum of the earth lawyers to pivot to wrongful covid infection cases and start doing some good work someday.

      6. Nope*

        I’m genuinely surprised the response doesn’t account for this. There is nowhere I’ve worked that deceit and destruction of property on this level weren’t fireable offenses.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Because “fireable” doesn’t mean “will be fired.” It means “this is something reasonable companies would consider firing someone over.” The OP has no power to fire the division head, and the advice is for her.

      7. Momma Bear*

        This. What in the world – if I propped open a door to my office space I’d be fired on the spot. And she knew it was wrong because she wasn’t even working out of her own office to hide it! I’m appalled that everyone seems that since the fine is paid and you didn’t die that it’s OK. How much, by the way, did your medical care cost you? They shouldn’t cut her slack. They should show you support and use some sense!

      8. Chinook*

        That woman is exactly why public health orders allow for fines, forced quarantines and even jail. Those punishments should be a last resort, but sher is walking example of why they exist.

        Can the OP report her to public health (I know Canada has a system in place and the provincial levels)? Wouldn’t she be flagged as a point of contact during contact tracing that would have led to all sorts of red flags. She is a “Typhoid Mary” type spreader who puts her concerns above everyone else’s.

        At the very least, she should be the focus of a law suit for the OP’s medical expenses (as well as her niece’s and possibly her friend’s) for her negligence. Her actions directly cost you money. The employer is sort of responsible as well, but short of actively monitoring where she was working by having physical security guards on site, should they be fully liable for the actions of someone who broke into their office? They had rules in place and did their best to ensure employees followed the,. The manager defied these rules. Maybe they are 20% responsible to the woman’s 80%?

        1. Brad Fitt*

          If LW lives somewhere with a robust (or even halfway decent) contact tracing system, yes the division head should be facing some consequences. LW said the company was fined, so maybe that’s what led to it. But if LW is somewhere without a functional contact tracing system (Hello from the States! We’re dying!) or if the contact tracing system can’t/doesn’t notify anyone in charge of enforcing pandemic protocols (Hi again!), then who knows.

          For any lawsuits or compensation, I would generally go to the company first, because they’re more likely to have the funds to cover it. The company’s lax security measures allowed this to happen. If the security breach had been discovered within a reasonable time–they had eight months to notice–LW, their niece, and their friend would have been far less likely to contract covid. (Disclaimer: not a lawyer, but I have one in the family who specializes in employment law and workplace liability. Lots of discussion about these types of cases at Zoom Thanksgiving last year.)

      9. Rainy*

        Jamming the door to access the building when the card readers are down is not only a firing offense for my employer, it would also lead to criminal charges. What the actual heck.

      10. Hoya Lawya*

        The company should ideally fire the manager, yes. But it also sounds like they’re refusing to do that.

        I think this is a situation where legal action by the employee (and indeed the friend who took care of the employee’s niece) against the might be warranted. I would recommend they contact a lawyer.

    2. Classic Rando*

      Right??? Like, she intentionally jammed a lock so she could break into the building, leaving it exposed to anyone else who might want to break in, you’d think that alone would be firing grounds before you even get into the pandemic aspect of it. How does she still have a job??

    3. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Let her go, and pay 100% of OP’s medical bills, the niece’s medical bills, and the friend’s medical bills for the initial *and any subsequent* treatment. This is absolutely ridiculous, and you have EVERY RIGHT to be furious, OP.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I was coming here to say this. At minimum, this company should be paying OP’s medical bills, along with her niece and friend. I, too, am shocked that she wasn’t fired. She LEFT THE OFFICE UNLOCKED FOR 8 MONTHS. Beyond all the COVID stuff (which alone is terrible), I don’t understand how that alone wasn’t enough for termination.

        But yes OP, I’d look into having your employer pay for these hospital bills, and any subsequent treatment for all three of you.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      Sadly, the way for management to go on this is addressing the override of security, the violation of company guidelines and the concealment of her presence in the building.

      But, as we know from the letter, management doesn’t seem to care about any of that. Any halfway decent company would fire this person.

      I doubt the company will tell the LW what happened with the lying Covid-spreader. Managers never share that info but they really do owe the LW an explanation of how this has been addressed. It will just be easier for them to go along with “You’re not dead and she feels really, really bad so can’t you just let it go?” so that’s what they will do.

      Sorry LW. Good luck with your job search.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Although now the LW knows how to burglarize the place (because what do you bet this other person *is still doing this*).

      2. Brad Fitt*

        Disagree. Managers do share information about the consequences another employee is facing with the other person/people involved in the situation that lead to those consequences.

        Personally, I’ve been in more than a few unpleasant situations that required involving HR in the workplace, and every time I was advised after the fact of what the consequences were for the person who did it (that includes the serial lunch thief, the disappointing number of sexual harassers and/or assaulters, and the lady who walked around coughing on people during flu season a few years ago because “flu shots don’t work here I’ll prove it to you” wtaf).

    1. singularity*

      That’s what I want to know! I’d be looking to get reimbursed for the cost of my hospital stay at MINIMUM.

      1. Ashley*

        In the US this would be workers comp but I don’t know how that works for the niece and friend medical costs / time off. Being US based I would be talking to an attorney.
        Know this is a horrible person that does not care about others … and she is part of the reason the pandemic is as bad as it is.
        I hope your recover is full ans swift!

        1. anon2*

          Based on what law? The outcome was the same as if the manager came in just the one day and happened to run into the OP, which would not be a legal violation. The rest of the details are what make it maddening.

          1. GL*

            As a general matter, the cause, not just the outcome, does matter under the law. If OP sued for negligence, the question would be whether the company had failed to take reasonable measures to meet its duty of care to OP, and if not, whether that failure caused OP’s injury (i.e., contracting COVID). Not saying OP does or doesn’t have a negligence case here, but the details do matter.

            1. Properlike*

              This may only apply to felonies, but if you do something wrong (infecting people with a serious illness) while doing something wrong (pick one: going out when you know you don’t feel well during a pandemic; breaking into an office you’re not supposed to be in because pandemic; lying about it the entire time; creating huge liability for your company…

              Can she sue both the division head AND the company and get enough money to buffer the time for a different job?

              1. Momma Bear*

                In the US, depending circumstances, people have been arrested for coughing on someone and trying to give them COVID. It can be considered assault. Now, in this case Typhoid Manager didn’t cough on her, but she certainly did not fess up to her activities or illness in a time of pandemic. It would be a hard case to prove, but exposing someone to the virus can sometimes have legal complications.

                I’m still astounded that the management chain doesn’t seem to care that the broke into the building and all that. What blackmail does she have on them?

                1. Hoya Lawya*

                  Now, in this case Typhoid Manager didn’t cough on her, but she certainly did not fess up to her activities or illness in a time of pandemic.

                  That’s not the same as an intentional tort.

              2. JM60*

                I don’t know if it would be advisable for the OP, but I would like them to sue the division head personally in addition to suing the company.

            2. R*

              This isn’t exactly right. In the US, for the OP to prevail in a negligence suit of any kind, she would gave to show that she was owed a duty, the duty was breached by the company (she probably cant establish this since it appears the company had not notice that the department manager was going into the office), that the breach of duty caused OP to be damaged (as others have pointed out, this can be tricky), and what the damage is. In terms of damages there could be a pain and suffering element, plus co-pays or out of pocket expenses.

              If she has legal custody of her niece she could bring a similar suit on behalf of the niece but it would be more difficult to prove causation given that the niece was also in contact with the friend and we only have the friend’s word that she couldn’t possibly have been exposed elsewhere.

              The friend would have to bring a separate suit which would be even more difficult to prove since she is one tier removed from contact with the supervisor. She might also have to sue OP as a necessary party to the lawsuit since she would have to claim that she caught Covid from OP or niece, not directly from the supervisor.

            3. Hoya Lawya*

              With the caveat that I don’t practice tort law, and my experience with Covid-19 litigation consists of doing a one-hour CLE session on the subject, it seems to me there are several ways to prove negligence here:
              – The manager’s violation of local health orders
              – The manager’s overriding of security protocols

              Since LW did not leave her home for 10 months or what not (which I would normally say was overkill, but I digress), she can also likely prove causation.

              Again, LW needs to consult with a lawyer with some expertise in this area, but these are questions LW should ask that lawyer.

          2. WC*

            Specifics vary by state, but workers comp in the U.S. does not generally have to relate to any legal violations, just a work-related illness or injury. Even if it were a less egregious situation where both OP and the division head were authorized to be in the office, it would still fall under workers comp; this is pretty clearly a work-related illness. OP would be wise to contact a workers comp attorney.

            1. R*

              I am guessing that there is some kind of pandemic exclusion in many or most comp policies, but that would vary by policy.

            2. raincoaster*

              Definitely. I’m not saying ONLY a lawsuit is an option here. Nor am I saying only suing the Covid spreader is an option: the company has a legal duty to maintain a safe working environment, and they absolutely failed to do that. By failing to punish the woman for breaking into the building (repeatedly, and sabotaging the lock) they are complicit. I do think there’s a great case to be made here for the victim, the niece, possibly the friend, and against both the spreader and the company.

    2. Older and bolder*

      Yes, I’d like to hear from the resident attorneys about this. BTW, who paid for OP’s hospitalization? The co-pays? Who compensated the friend for work time lost? So many questions! I think OP could sue the manager in civil court anyway, maybe?

      1. Astrid*

        While I understand your frustration, there isn’t technically evidence she got covid from the office visit because the other person wasn’t tested. So, it’s just circumstantial evidence at best. You could get workers comp, but that’s no different than anyone right now who is working and getting sick from covid. And while it’s frustrating at the behavior of one person likely causing all this, many countries have already decided there is no legal liability for covid transmission…because otherwise I can imagine many people would be looking for whom to sue for lost income, medical expenses etc

        1. NYC Taxi*

          Yes this. The most sensible answer here. There’s no definitive proof that this person gave OP et al. Covid. It’s anecdotal. If in US I’d file a Workers Comp claim. Apparently the business doesn’t want to fire the person for flouting rules, coming into the office by jamming open a door and causing the business to incur fines, in additional to a possible covid exposure. There’s not alot that can be done other than getting a new job.

          1. JM60*

            The burden of proof in a lawsuit in the US is “preponderance of evidence”. That is, is the accused more likely guilty or not guilty. This is very different from the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for criminal trials. It’s 50%. I think the likelihood that the OP got COVID from the head of the division is well above 50%. Though there would be a lot of “he-said-she-said” in a trial, I think the OP could likely demonstrate in court to above 50% likelihood that the division head is guilty.

          2. Yorick*

            I don’t like to nitpick word choice, but “anecdotal” doesn’t mean that there is or isn’t proof in this case. An anecdote is a single story, so most lawsuits are anecdotal (unless it’s something like a class action).

          3. Hoya Lawya*

            JM60 is entirely correct that the standard isn’t “definitive proof,” but preponderance of the evidence. I would also add that the manager has acknowledged coming to work when sick. That also significantly bolsters LW’s case for causation.

        2. Observer*

          there isn’t technically evidence she got covid from the office visit because the other person wasn’t tested. So, it’s just circumstantial evidence at best

          Circumstantial evidence is evidence. It’s not always the best evidence, but it is definitely something that can be considered in a liability trial.

          many countries have already decided there is no legal liability for covid transmission

          Right now the US doesn’t have any sort of liability shield, especially not for willful and / or egregious behavior.

          Not that I think a court case would go well, but I would not want to bet on that.

          1. Aquawoman*

            Thank you, I was coming in to say this. Circumstantial evidence is 1+1+1=3. And in this case, this circumstantial evidence is strong–it adds up to catching the virus from the division head, given the not feeling well + interaction + no other exposure avenues. There are plenty of areas of civil liability that are winnable without definitive proof where it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck. And, all that said, I agree re the court case.

            1. JM60*

              I also want to add that almost all evidence is circumstantial, and that circumstantial evidence can be quite strong. Fingerprint evidence is circumstantial. DNA evidence is circumstantial. A witness saying they saw the defendant running away from the murder scene with a gun is circumstantial.

          2. Former Attorney*

            Also remember that most cases settle before going to trial anyways. So the company may pay out a settlement to avoid litigation costs. I mean it isn’t a great fact pattern for the company that an employee had unauthorized access to the building for months without anyone from the company discovering it. They may not want that “on the record” for thieves & hackers to know.

      2. Maggie*

        I’m not a lawyer but I don’t think it can be “proven” that she got it from the director unless the director has a positive test on file and OP can prove without a doubt that she never left her house. I really really feel for the LW And this is f’ed up, but I don’t think that she’d win in a lawsuit. We will probably see some attempted ones coming up though in the next year or two and maybe will see for ourselves how that’s handled.

        1. JM60*

          With a lawsuit, you only need to meet the burden of “preponderance of evidence”. In other words, if you convinced the jury (or judge for a bench trial) that it’s more likely than not that the defendant is guilty, they are obligated to give a guilty verdict. It’s a 50% bar to meet, and I think the evidence, given that the OP is found credible, is well beyond 50%.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          Exactly. The description of rules and fines make this clear that this did not take place in America. I suspect that the reason that the cost of medical treatment did not come up is because it was non-existent or minimal.

        2. Temperance*

          I think the fines etc. vary on a state-by-state basis, so this could be in the US. My state mandated what kinds of businesses could be physically open early on in the pandemic.

      1. Ashley*

        So far I don’t know of any successful court cases in the US but the I do believe lawsuits have started to be filed. This is why the Senate Republicans were trying so hard to give companies immunity from COVID lawsuits. I would guess the legal reasoning would be similar to knowingly acting in away that could give someone an STI or HIV without disclosing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I have no idea how the law will shape up in these cases, but I’m curious about whether the company would be the liable party, and whether closing and locking the building and instructing people not to work from the office would give them some protection (assuming no facts that counter that defense, like this woman having a known history of jamming doors, etc.).

          1. Temperance*

            I’m also wondering if others at the org were aware of DH’s actions. If so, that would absolutely tip the scales in favor of company liability.

          2. Stefie25*

            Based on the way HR seemed to have handled it, it seems like they knew & were okay with her actions. Now if legal action comes out of it they will probably throw this manager into the wind. Not just being out when she knew she was sick but she deliberately circumvented her office’s security with the sole intent of breaking into her workplace. Unless she has the written instructions signed by her higher ups so that it can be proved that an agent of the company approved this action, they’ll probably deny it, fire her & charge her with breaking & entering. Guaranteed the company has written proof that they instructed every employee to work from home & not to come into the office, no exceptions. So she acted has a free agent & can be charged & sued as one.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t see any reason to assume the company knew about and was okay with her actions. If they knew, she presumably wouldn’t have needed to jam the door to get in.

              1. raincoaster*

                Isn’t failing to take disciplinary action against her for sabotaging the locks tacit approval?

          3. GL*

            Yeah, as I mentioned in a comment above, those kinds of details would be relevant to determining whether the company acted reasonably to meet its duty of care to OP.

        2. Temperance*

          The HIV/STI laws are really, really specific, though, and it involves sexual consent (in a lot of cases).

          For example, if my neighbor had the flu and didn’t tell me, and I ended up in the hospital, it would just be on me to pay those bills, not my neighbor. If my neighbor and I hooked up, and they had HIV or herpes, and I found out later, I could have them charged criminally in most states.

    3. Robbie*

      I am sure the company’s insurance would be interested to know the several health and safety violations…

    4. DaniCalifornia*

      Also wondering this. An acquaintance who is a hair dresser got Covid because her client had it. The client KNEW she had it and still came to the appointment anyways. Her response when asked was, “I didn’t want to worry you.” The hairdresser obviously had to quarantine and lost her sole source of income for 2+ weeks. She has written evidence (texts/fb posts) that the client had Covid and that she did come to her hairdresser when she had it. I’m not one to encourage frivolous lawsuits…but I’d be furious and want some way to recoup my losses as it was intentionally done.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        That story is insane. She had COVID and still went out to get her hair done?

        I feel like there is this horrible disconnect with so many people in my country where they think that they can do and say whatever because “I’m a good person.” But what you *are* is what you *do*, isn’t it? If you do the things a sociopath would do, then how are you a good person? Because you feel good about yourself in your heart? Because you are nice to people you like?

      2. booksbooksmorebooks*

        That’s awful! Honestly this is why I’m on the side of regulation, if sensible, being helpful – if it was on each business to make procedures and enforce rules, people get confused & push back & just don’t have a decent baseline for relative risk levels – and you get jerks doing things like this.

        One of the new norms here in Canada that might be worth borrowing from — every time you go in for appointments (and they mandated gyms and a few others now have to be by appointment; plus the usual hair salon, massage, doctor, dentist, etc) you have to sign a waiver stating: 1, you don’t have covid, 2, you don’t have any of a list of common symptoms, 3, you haven’t knowingly come into contact with someone who has it or been at an exposure site (there are notices going out regularly for every traced exposure), and 4, you haven’t travelled outside the province within 14 days for any reason.

        Maybe something to draw on? My sister-in-law runs a similar business and she said as soon as the waivers started it really helped give her a framework to talk to people and normalized the conversation – it helps that it’s a regulated thing here, but presenting it as if ‘of course’ she’d be asking, and asking formally, might help.

      1. WC*

        That’s referring to personal injury law, not workers compensation law, which is different. In my state, OP would likely be entitled to have their medical costs covered.

        1. Brett*

          I assumed the commenter was referring to suing the department head directly for personal injury or suing the business for a negligence tort. I am not sure you would even need a lawsuit for worker’s comp under the current rules in place in most states that assume a COVID exposure is workplace related (though as mentioned elsewhere, this is likely ex-US).

    5. Esmeralda*

      BEcause you would have to PROVE in a court of law that you got covid from her and couldn’t possibly have gotten it from anyone else and you would have to PROVE in a court of law that she was intentionally trying to infect others or that her behavior was criminally negligent. IANAL but I think this would be very hard to prove. Not worth the cost of bringing a suit.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think this is one of those where people want it to be illegal, but the actual law may not be there. I’m sure there’s a lawyer out there who could put together a legal theory to test, but that’s different than winning the case (and I don’t think any Covid-related liability cases with similarities to this have been won at this point, although I’d be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong).

        That said, it’s certainly possible a lawyer could negotiate some kind of settlement from the company, totally aside from the OP’s actual odds of winning a case, since companies usually want stuff like this to go away.

        1. Wintermute*

          I would be very interested to see legal theories but I really can’t think of any that would attach liability to a business because you’d need to prove some form of tort, and probably some kind of negligence, and you’d have to prove causation and proving causation is a heck of a thing in a global pandemic. One that I could see sticking is employers that negligently/fraudulently declared workers essential just because they couldn’t be bothered to set up work from home or make other arrangements. Unfortunately, though, the US never strictly defined “essential” in this context like some countries have.

        2. WC*

          Workers compensation laws vary by state, but OP would have a good case in mine to have their medical bills covered. The insurance company would likely initially reject the claim, but given OP’s level of isolation (e.g. grocery delivery), they would likely have a good case. It would not entitle them to compensation for pain and suffering, because WC is different from personal injury, which is often unsatisfying to plaintiffs – but if OP is in the U.S., the cost of a week in a hospital is likely worth the hassle of filing a claim and jumping through the hoops.

      2. Aquawoman*

        I agree with Alison that the law is undeveloped and probably not going to go well, but there are some real misstatements in Esmeralda’s post. First, it conflates criminal law and civil (tort) law. This is significant because criminal law requires proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” while civil law usually requires only that it be more likely than not that the defendant caused the injury. Also, there are varying levels of intent for both criminal and civil law–e.g. manslaughter is a crime where intent does not usually matter; if someone does something radically stupid that anyone reasonable could have foreseen could cause serious injury or death, that’s usually manslaughter. So the kind of intent specified in the post is not even necessary for all criminal charges.
        And the necessary level of intent is even less in tort cases, where mere negligence can be enough, and it’s certainly within the realm of that concept to say that feeling ill during a pandemic and then interacting with people is negligent. Negligent basically means “a sensible person would not do this.”

          1. Three Flowers*

            I’m curious, since you’re a lawyer and I have only the knowledge of torts one gets from a talkative lawyer sibling: would having paid the fines (both the individual and the employer) constitute an admission of negligence sufficient for OP to have a really straightforward civil suit?

            1. Aquawoman*

              I doubt it. The fines relate to breaking specific rules that are meant to protect people from covid but that doesn’t go very far in proving that this OP’s covid was probably caught FROM that department head.

              1. R*

                Just to second you, in my state anyway, proof of some kind of state issued workplace violation is evidence of negligence, not proof of negligence.

              2. Hoya Lawya*

                You’re speak to two different parts of the tort of negligence, though. One is proving the actual existence of negligence (“failure to act reasonably under the circumstances”), and the other is causation.

                One way to prove the existence of negligence is that the tortfeasor failed to comply with laws. If the manager came to the office in violation of lockdown regulations, I would think that is a route to proving negligence.

                Causation is the second question. You are right that the fines do not address causation, but there are possibly other paths to doing that, especially since the manager came to work sick.

      3. JM60*

        I think you’re too hung up on the word prove. For lawsuits in the US, you only need to prove it “preponderance of evidence”, i.e., is the defendant more likely guilty than not. It’s a 50% threshold, which is very different from the “beyond a reasonable doubt” for criminal prosecutions.

    6. IdahoSmith82*

      In California (and other states, but maybe not all of them)- this is one of the reasons it’s been made into a workers comp issue- to avoid lawsuits against individuals. In this case – I’d say OP needs to file it as such- since it appears this is pretty cut/dry tracing.

      But I’m not sure where/how it could apply to the niece or your friend.

      The bigger issue really is the fact that this is part of a larger pattern. I have a coworker who also went to visit his family on the east coast right when it was all starting in March, attended one of the early “super spreader event” and brought the virus into our San Diego office, exposed several of us. Luckily- it was the week before the shut down, and none of us caught it from him, BUT- he’d been told to cancel his trip, came into the office sick and this was in the early days before we knew the full details of the virus/symptoms/etc.

      This same coworker is a nightmare to work with, and has had several breaches that I’ve since reported to our compliance team because I’ve just about had it. This potential transmittal was just another example of his questionable behaviors. I was tired of having to CYA because he’s too greedy to not do what’s best for the client.

    7. Three Flowers*

      ^ My question. If I were OP, I’d be in a lawyer’s office right now with my medical bills, my niece’s medical bills, my friend and her medical bills, and documentation of the fines the company and employee had to pay (proof/admission of guilt), finding out just how much I could take them to the cleaners for. And if that didn’t work, I’d be taking the story to a journalist.

    8. Penny Parker*

      “how can this NOT be a lawsuit” — if the republicans get their way and immunity is granted to businesses much worse than this will happen, and much worse has already happened with the meat processing plants, and no lawsuit will be allowed At. All. That is how this can NOT be a lawsuit!

      1. R*

        I mean, I agree with you that there should be (and is) a duty owed by an employer to keep its employees safe, I disagree that giving business some immunity from these kinds of suits is a bad thing. At this point we have all seen situations where even the most diligent people have caught Covid, despite taking every precaution. This is a highly contagious, airborne disease that you can catch from someone who may not even know they have it. While many people may be able to take an educated guess about where they caught Covid or who they caught it from, it would be almost impossible in most cases to trace it back to a specific person or location. But if people are allowed to bring a lawsuit for this, they will try to pin it on the deepest pocket available. Even if the company ultimately prevails, costs of defense would be astronomical since this thing spreads so quickly. And I doubt that there would be insurance coverage. The end result would be many, many companies going out of business.

        1. Hoya Lawya*

          Agreed. There are plenty of sound reasons to give businesses some immunity from Covid-19 litigation.

          1. anon today*

            But not blanket immunity: the outbreaks at meat and poultry plants are outrageous, and employers lied to employees about their exposure at work so they wouldn’t quit en masse.

  2. StateWorker*

    Reach out to your workers comp board. There is a decent chance that you have a valid claim. I would also reach out to your state department of labor for advice on other action you can take. I know in my state both of those agencies would want to know and wouldn’t necessarily be alerted just because your workplace was fined.

    1. curious*

      I was thinking this too – notify workers comp. The company is brushing things under the rug. I feel like at the very least this would be a wake up call.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I was thinking something along these lines. OP should not be liable for their hospital bill given the probability that they caught COVID from this rule ignoring coworker is super high. It blows my mind that the employer doesn’t seem to be making any effort whatsoever to make OP whole.

      And just…what the heck??? This person used a different workspace than their own so they wouldn’t get caught and not one person higher in the food chain sees anything wrong with that??

      1. Amaranth*

        There is something really wrong with the fact that this person left the office unsecured, tried to hide their access from higher ups in the company, and HR is stating ‘alls well that ends well’ basically. I’m curious if HR or the managers are buddies with this person – or somehow complicit — and perhaps this hasn’t really been reported up the chain.

        1. Rachel in NYC*

          I’m also not sure you can argue ‘alls well that ends well.’ I talked to someone yesterday who was interviewing someone for a neurology position- he interviewed a woman who is hoping to building her career on the long-term effects of covid.

  3. Temperance*

    LW, I’m sorry. This person is a selfish monster. Just, wtf, who does that?

    This is extremely unrelated to your employment question, but did you report her to the Health Department? She caused at least 3 infections (probably more), and if she’s so obsessed with going to work that she lies about it, who knows where else she’d gone.

  4. Nia*

    The only acceptable response initially was to fire the woman. After downplaying her very real attempt to kill the LW the only acceptable response now is to fire the woman, her boss, LW’s boss, and whoever the LW talked to in HR. They’re all clearly too incompetent to have jobs. Since that’s not going to happen the LW should do the minimum amount of work to avoid getting fired and bolt at the first available opportunity.

    1. Zweisatz*

      You raise a good point though which might be an angle the LW can try: If the HR person she talked to is not at the top of the HR ladder, it might make sense to talk to a higher-up/head of HR. At least that worked in one of the other letters.

      I’m not saying to get her fired (which HR would probably not even tell her if it was in the works), but to lay out the whole situation and ask for what she’d like to see/ask what the company is doing to make this matter right (e. g. an apology by offending co-worker).

  5. Francois Caron*

    Lawyer up. This was malicious, possibly criminal. It’s no longer safe for this employee to work in that office.

    1. Paulina*

      Also since the company seems intent on sweeping the division head’s malfeasance under the carpet, they may try to find some other pretext to fire the OP, who they clearly do not value.

  6. boop the first*

    Wow okay, but did division head test positive after all that? Did they even get tested at all??

    1. Helvetica*

      Yeah, I am also confused about this. Have you had confirmation that she tested positive?
      I mean, all the other things she did are absolutely appalling and while you could suspect it was her who infected you, if she wasn’t symptomatic/didn’t get tested/tested negative, it is also likely you got it somewhere else.

    2. virago*

      OP doesn’t say whether division head got tested.

      But she did say that because they live in a hot spot, this was the first time that she and her niece had left the house since lockdown except for outdoor chats with neighbors from 20 feet away. They’ve had their groceries delivered.

      OP also mentioned that the division head admitted that she hadn’t been feeling well but had been coming in anyway.

      I’m assuming that at some point, the division head did get tested and confirmed that she had COVID. I don’t know who else could have infected OP, OP’s niece, and the friend who looked after OP’s niece.

      1. Darren*

        I’m assuming the division head most definitely did not get tested (or waited long enough that they would definitely test negative before they did). Why would you want to add another nail to your coffin?

        They can already prove you were negligent about following established protocol to reduce the risk of transmission but there is still a fair amount of doubt as to whether or not your had COVID and therefore transmitted it. A positive test would put even more evidence against them. It would be in their best interest legally to avoid getting a test by whatever means necessary until it would be too late to get a useful result (which it might have been anyway by the time the OP knew they had been infected).

        1. Not a litigation lawyer*

          I just wanted to add that whilst we are all assuming (in line with Alison’s excellent rules) that the OP had truly been isolating 100% apart from this incident, a court won’t be that kind. In terms of proving that the OP got COVID from the manager, lawyers are likely to do everything possible to cast doubts on whether the OP really was able to lock themselves away fully. It’s not easy to prove a negative (i.e that you didn’t have contact with anyone else), and without that you can’t really show that you couldn’t have got COVID elsewhere.
          I’m sorry OP because this situation is really rough, but it’s possible that the legal situation might not be very satisfactory for you here.

          1. Self Employed*

            One of the interesting things is how phone tracking data has been used (anonymized) to show patterns of movement during the pandemic: people staying home during the initial lockdown, then traveling with wild abandon during Spring Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

            OP, unless she’s a privacy fanatic, should have personal phone location data showing she stayed home. She has records of her orders for grocery delivery to support her claim that she wasn’t shopping, and her debit/credit cards will show she’s not using them to shop in person. She’s not taking money out of ATMs to spend cash away from home (though I know some people prefer to give cash tips to delivery drivers, maybe not so much now). She probably has emails, texts, and social media posts supporting how she’s at home–and none talking about any clandestine CrossFit workouts, cash-only manicures, and wild nights at basement raves.

            If I were on the jury, I would find this at least 51% convincing that she got it from Covid Mary.

  7. singularity*

    So this wasn’t 100% clear from the letter, but is this division head in any way supervising or in a position of authority over the OP? I would not trust the judgement of someone who behaved like that if they were my supervisor and I’d want to talk about what could be done so that OP doesn’t have to report to this division head (if they had to at all).

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

      OP said the division head is her manager’s manager, so it seems like she’s the next level of ‘hierarchy’ in the chain of command.

  8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Pretty sure that at any of the large companies I’ve worked at, the division head would’ve been out the door right after it came out that she’d jammed the lock to get in; Covid or no Covid. We have sensitive information inside our offices. I suppose OP’s office does too?

    1. JustaTech*

      If the OP had to come in to the office to do work that is “legally required”, I’m going to guess the answer to that question is “yes”.

      I mean, heck, *every* business has sensitive information. Client information. Revenue projections. Personnel information (think of all the information HR and Payroll have that would be a gold mine to an identity thief).

      And then there’s all the stuff in an office that would delight a *regular* thief: computers, monitors, chairs, projectors, big screen displays.

      Even if we ignore the whole “infecting someone with a disease to the point that they were hospitalized” (and we shouldn’t), the division head should be fired for the security violation alone!

    2. TurtleIScream*

      Right? Maybe she spread Covid, maybe she didn’t, but she broke into her office building! Repeatedly! That alone should have her out the door.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      That’s what I was thinking too.
      She said she jammed the card reader. Does that mean inside the building or outside the building? I worked one place where there was a card reader to get into the building (for after hours open 7am-6pm) and then a card reader to get into certain areas beyond the front desk (HR, Managers, and Customer Service Call floor). I’ve also worked where the building is open or can be opened with a key, and then individual floors and/or offices have card readers.

      If the reader is on the outside of the building she then had the entire building unlocked. Even if it was just one area of the business it would have been less secure.

    4. Three Flowers*

      At any of the organizations I’ve worked for, regardless of size, tampering with a lock would’ve been grounds for immediate dismissal. (And we didn’t even lock everything! But what was locked needed to *stay* locked.)

  9. Sara*

    Alison – because you could easily trace her hospitalization to this division head, could LW file for workers comp?

      1. Sigh- Not That Easy*

        Alison- I would LOVE to see you do a Q&A with some workers’ compensation attorneys in the future (more than one/different states) – the criteria for an injury/condition being compensable swing so widely from state to state and that’s *before* COVID got brought into the mix, not to mention that an insurance carrier’s willingness to cover treatment/missed time from work doesn’t necessarily mean your claim meets that criteria. It would be such a good resource for people here if you’d be willing to do it!
        – WC Paralegal (FWIW)

    1. Esmeralda*

      You couldn’t prove it, though. Just for starters, there’s only the OP’s word that they and their neice have not had contact with anyone else. *I* believe the OP, but that doesn’t mean OP can prove that absolutely no one else could have infected them.

      1. WC*

        In my state, WC does not have a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, so that’s okay. It just has to be more likely than not that OP contracted it at work.

      2. Self Employed*

        I wrote a longer comment on another thread, but OP should be able to assemble a ton of evidence supporting their claim of staying home. Phone location data, grocery delivery orders, cards not being used away from home, email/text/social media references to staying home but not to going out. Sure, it’s possible OP could’ve gone out and left her phone at home while spending cash she had on hand before the pandemic (or just meeting up with someone for unmasked shenanigans) but 8-9 months is a long time to keep up a facade of staying home, while going out surreptitiously, just for the sake of saying “I have done everything I humanly can to avoid catching COVID-19!” And the time period where she would’ve been exposed before showing symptoms is only about a week.

  10. PJM*

    I strongly believe this woman should be fired. Why would they want to keep someone so exceedingly selfish with horrible judgment? If she displays such horrible judgment during a pandemic, I believe that she would also have bad judgment in work matters too. That has been my actual experience at work. Sometimes employees would tell me stories from their personal life where they displayed shockingly bad judgment, including committing crimes. Sure enough, in almost every case they would eventually be fired for something at work where they also had terrible judgment.

    1. Paulina*

      She’s also stupid and careless. It’s a rather minor aspect of all of this, but the division head was told that the OP was going in to the office to take care of this mandated task. If she’d been thinking at all she’d’ve made a note of that and been somewhere else. Even then the OP might still have gotten sick since the office used was the same, but selfish division head wouldn’t’ve gotten caught. Blinded by her sense of entitlement, I expect.

    1. Manager Maybe*

      I can’t really see how this is relevant considering the division head wasn’t supposed to be there.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That doesn’t matter. Masks primarily are to stop someone from spreading the virus, not to give protection against getting it (they do of course provide some protection against that, but they’re better at stopping viruses from getting out)

      1. Temperance*

        YEP. And for that matter, just using the facts in the letter …. this woman went to great lengths to break into the office and obscure her location, knowing that what she was doing was illegal. Why should we actually believe that this selfish person was wearing a mask?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’m hoping there’s no ‘well if you were wearing a mask you couldn’t have caught it’, ‘if she was wearing a mask there’s no way she could have infected you’ or ‘if you weren’t wearing masks it’s your fault’.

          Because none of those statements would be true. And irrelevant.

        2. Hoya Lawya*

          Actually, NOPE.

          First, there is quite a bit of evidence that wearing a mask protects the wearer from contracting COVID-19, as well as spreading it — and the CDC has issued guidance to this effect.

          Second, yes, comparative negligence is a partial defense to claims of negligence and might reduce her award. In some states, it’s a complete defense (meaning if you’re negligent at all, you have no case, even if the tortfeasor was more negligent than you!)

      1. Toddler Parent*

        And it’s very unlikely that a two year old would be mature enough to wear a mask correctly for several hours while her aunt was working. Expecting the niece to have been masked is not reasonable.

        1. Double A*

          Yeah, my daughter is about 27 months and while legally she’s supposed to wear a mask… it’s not possible. She will not. I’m working on it, but she can’t understand it.

          We don’t go anywhere where she would have to wear one, which makes it a bit of a catch-22… She never sees people wearing masks or *has* to wear one, so she doesn’t have it normalized or really chances to practice… We try around the house some but she just tears them off. I do need to get more persistent about it, though.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I don’t have kids but I imagine trying to get a mask on a toddler would be like trying to put a mask on my cat: time consuming, ultimately pointless and liable to result in many scratches…

            1. MB*

              Depends on the kid. My 3 yo has worn one since June (then age 2.5) if there are any other kids on a playground without issue. Lots of kids wearing them to preschool or daycare. I expect it to be more of a battle with my now 19 month old.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                Ahh cool, I learnt something new today :) (I have no knowledge of kids at all). Best of luck in your mask endeavours :)

              2. Beckysuz*

                Yeah my six year old wears his all day and has absolutely no problem understanding both why it’s important (to keep teachers and friends safe), and why it has to be worn properly(covering nose and mouth). My three year old on the other hand will only wear his in bursts and randomly tears it off. Less of a problem as I don’t take him out of the house to public places with any frequency.

                Also…if my six year old who I swear has serial killer empathy levels can understand being a good citizen and masking up, what the heck is wrong with all these adults ?

                1. Gaia*

                  I feel so bad for the littlest kids I see wearing them. It must be so confusing and upsetting for them. My heart goes out to their grownups, too. Another added stress of raising tiny humans.

                2. Working Rachel*

                  Can’t reply directly to Gaia because of nesting, but I don’t think the smallest kids find it confusing or upsetting…either they take it in stride, like at least one toddler I know, or they just find the mask irritating and don’t really understand the “people are dying” part. My 5-8 year olds at school understand why they’re wearing them at an age-appropriate level and take it in stride. Towards the beginning of the year we had to do a little, “This is to keep other people safe,” reinforcement, but after a week or two that pretty much died down.

                3. allathian*

                  @Gaia. This may be true for a while, but a kid who’s younger than five will barely remember a time when wearing masks wasn’t necessary. Kids are very adaptable. In my area, they’ve just said that they’re going to start requiring 12-year-olds to mask up. Until now, the age limit has been set at 15. For some reason, it seems like the authorities thought that younger kids wouldn’t be able to wear the masks correctly, which is patently false.

            2. Boof*

              It helps a lot when you are wearing them too. Kids like to mimic. I tend to think if the kid can wear a hat, they can wear a mask*. I say this as a parent (before I was a parent, I would also have assumed it was more like a cat and basically impossible)
              *I know mileage will vary but most kids are actually pretty pliable if you practice a bit, praise, reward, and do it too.

              1. MeepMeep*

                Yeah, my kid was 4 when the pandemic started (5 now), and she’s absolutely fine with wearing a mask, and echoes my annoyed rhetoric about all the “silly people” we see outside without masks on. We’ve never had a problem with it. I think that what helped the most is being absolutely crystal-clear about why the masks need to be there, and being absolutely inflexible about masks ourselves. We do not go outside our house without a mask on, ever, except in the back yard.

                I also did a lot of explanations, going into all the microbiology and immunology and epidemiology and watching videos of the virus-laden droplets issuing from people’s mouths, and so on and so forth. The kid still has a huge fascination with germs, and her stuffed animals have had a lot of epidemics in the past few months.

                1. allathian*

                  She’s also at the age where she probably doesn’t remember what it felt like to go outdoors without wearing a mask. Kids are adaptable, and because you always do it, she takes it for granted.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Sidenote… When I took my daughter for her flu shot, she wore her kawaii cartoon mask. On our way out, we overheard a mother talking to her tiny child: “Look, that girl has a kitty on her mask! Would you wear a mask if it had a kitty?” And the little girl nodded her head vigorously.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Not that this implies OP’s Yes should have been wearing one. It’s just an aside for anyone who stumbles across this later looking for help getting a kid to wear a mask.

              1. pope suburban*

                I’ve seen a fair few kids wearing masks with costumes, including one ferociously adorable small dinosaur at Target. I think maybe giving it an element of play, or the novelty of wearing “special clothes” can make it easier/more appealing for young children to wear masks. I am not an expert, just someone who remembers being a child and who listens to parent friends, but in case this is helpful to anyone who is trying to find a way to get their kids more invested in mask hygiene, I wanted to throw it out there. Of course kids and parents are doing their best and I don’t intend to point any fingers; I just want to maybe give people a boost in an exhausting and trying time.

              2. Diana*

                We’re always looking for way to get kids to wear masks! There’s also a reason why my kids (4.5 & 2.5) have a big collection. We’ve gone through the holidays (Halloween & Xmas) and have masks for every whim they’re into right now. My 2.5 will wear his mask all day at daycare because he wants to be like his sister who HAS to wear one.

            2. Gaia*

              My nephew decided early on that he loves masks because ninjas wear masks and he wants to be a ninja.

          3. Chinook*

            I look at masking anyone between 2 and 6 as not expecting perfection or even success, but more as “practice.” Some can and some can’t. Some will do it badly today and do it well next week. They are still at different developmental levels where a month or two can make a huge difference. But it is the attempt that matters, not the result.

      2. Dahlia*

        It is specifically not safe for children that age to wear masks, as they can’t reliably get them off, and could be harmed by them.

      3. A*

        While I still think this is largely irrelevant, I do have to point out that in the US this varies by state. In my state everyone over the age of two (effective on their birthday) is required to wear a mask indoors AND outdoors regardless of social distancing.

        And while I know some toddlers that absolutely struggle with this, I also know many that don’t. Sadly, they’ve largely grown up seeing people wearing masks, being introduced to it slowly in their households etc. so it’s not as jarring as expecting a toddler to immediately adapt in the beginning of the pandemic.

    3. Empress Matilda*

      Even if you knew the answer to the mask question, how would that change your advice to the OP?

    4. Temperance*

      Masks protect other people, not you. Also, if I was alone in a building that was supposed to have no other visitors, I wouldn’t be wearing a mask. I’m also going to assume that the building wasn’t regularly disinfected because it’s supposed to be empty.

      The Division Head violated the law and is a filthy plague rat. OP has no culpability here for her infection.

      1. Esmeralda*

        That’s actually not true — masks provide protection to both the wearer and to others. (based on studies from this summer and after)

        It’s not an impermeable shield, of course, but it does add some protection to the wearer. At a minimum, it likely cuts down on how much virus gets thru.

      2. Hoya Lawya*

        Masks protect other people, not you.

        Incorrect. They protect both the wearer and others. According to CDC guidance from November 20, “masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets (“source control”)… Masks also help reduce inhalation of these droplets by the wearer (“filtration for personal protection”). The community benefit of masking for SARS-CoV-2 control is due to the combination of these effects.”

      1. ThatGirl*

        As Esmeralda noted above, masks provide protection for both the wearer and other people. It’s not perfect, of course, but it does reduce the amount of potential virus you breathe in.

        (Side note: It actually irritates me a lot that the initial messaging was “it’s for other people!!” because while that’s true, it means selfish people don’t care because *they’re* fine, they’re not going to infect anyone… if the emphasis had been put on protecting yourself too it might have been more effective)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Cynical expert view: unlikely. There’s too many of the ‘it’s just a cold!’ people who won’t wear a mask regardless of what you tell them it’s for.

        2. Paulina*

          Unfortunately when people like that consider that a mask protects the wearer, they go “I’m not worried, if you’re worried then you wear a mask.” There’s no convincing these people, and there’s a lot of “just protect the vulnerable and let everyone else be normal” pushback that a “wear a mask for yourself” message would feed into.

        3. Hoya Lawya*

          if the emphasis had been put on protecting yourself too it might have been more effective

          Bingo. Self-interest is an incredibly powerful motivator.

        4. tangerineRose*

          I don’t know if the initial message was the problem as much as selfish people who just don’t want to wear masks.

      2. its just me*

        ok so IF the division head did have a mask and the op had a mask are they protected from each other or they are not? totally confused now.

        1. Self Employed*

          tl;dr: They’re partially protected, but in an enclosed office situation where the contagious person was probably hanging out talking on Zoom calls unmasked for a few days, it probably wouldn’t help that much. (I’m assuming that if the division head had been pretending she wasn’t at work, and thought she had the place to herself, she’s unlikely to have worn a mask.)

          Wearing masks reduces the amount of virus you spread or inhale. However, it’s VERY dependent on what the mask is made of and how well it fits. Air follows the path of least resistance: if your mask gaps at the sides, obviously your breath will go in and out through that opening. And a lot of masks don’t filter very effectively. Some masks don’t fit and they’re not very good at filtering either–they just meet your “must wear a mask to shop here” requirement.

          I had a well-fitted high thread count mask that my doctor’s office made me replace with a disposable pleated surgical mask. That mask fit so badly I could feel my breath whooshing in and out past my ears. Yes, if I’d coughed, it might have done a better job protecting people directly in front of me. But if I’d been contagious, I would’ve been leaving a trail of virus behind me. And I’d be breathing in anything anyone else had exhaled from the gaps around their masks. Luckily, that was back when we had lower community spread, but I refuse to go in for “routine blood tests” now that we have a major outbreak.

          I doubt that OP’s niece had a perfectly fitted mask, or diligently scrubbed her hands every time she touched something before touching her face. (Remember, the division head has been shedding virus all over that office for days!) OP was expecting to have the office and building to herself, so she probably wore a fairly ordinary mask–not an N95-equivalent taped around the sides.

          The real problem is that the division head had been contaminating the space for as long as she’d been contagious, for full workdays. As I mentioned, the division head probably hadn’t been wearing a mask, and she’d been talking on Zoom calls where she may have projected her voice (which spreads the virus better). Depending on whether or not the company occupies the whole building or whole floor or not, the HVAC may not have been upgraded for more ventilation or better filtration. So that office is going to have a much higher viral load than a shop where someone spent 15 minutes walking around with their mask on and not talking much.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Their chances of catching covid are lessened if they are both wearing a mask. Basically it’s like driving around at night with your headlights on: sure, you can drive around with them off and not be in a single accident, and you can drive around with them on and be in a accident. But the chaances of that accident occuring are far higher if you don’t use the lights.

          (Headlights = masks)

    5. Not A Manager*

      It’s amazing to me that whenever someone is a victim of someone else’s personal choices, the first question is BUT WHAT WERE YOU WEARING?

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        THIS. OP had no reason to anticipate needing a mask – she was in a building that (supposedly) no one had been in for the better part of a year, alone with a person that she lives with. I’m not sure why this is relevant to the letter, except to victim-blame.

        1. Self Employed*

          I think the point was that the other side’s lawyer will definitely go for the victim-blaming, because that’s what they’re paid to do.

  11. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’ve lost people to Covid. People who were healthy, not old and chatting to me over the phone one week and then dead a couple of weeks later.

    I honestly don’t think I could maintain any professionalism at all if I heard someone had been coming in ill, suggesting it’s not a big deal, not quarantining or taking precautions at this point. Probably would lose my job over the kind of things I’d say.

    So, to OP: my deepest and honest sympathies for this horrific situation. I have no advice on how to act because…well I’d be screaming. Love and support to you and yours :(

    1. singularity*

      Same here. It’s such a careless and cavalier attitude to have, it makes me really wonder about this employer that they didn’t fire this woman as soon as they found out what she was doing. How could you possibly trust an employee who’s behaved this way?

      1. pbnj*

        Seriously. I hope OP is able to find a job somewhere else. You don’t want to work somewhere with poor ethics, extremely poor judgement, and indifference to safety and employee welfare.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Same. I left the virology field because I could no longer work surrounded by viruses. I do not want to encounter them in an ordinary office.

          (Well, that was sort of one of the reasons. It’s a complex story)

    2. Temperance*

      I would tell all of my colleagues what DH had done, honestly. If the company doesn’t want to keep employees safe, I’d take it upon myself to do so.

      They better have paid OP her salary for the time that she was in the office, as well as her hospital bills, costs for her friend, etc.

      1. ginger ale for all*

        Sometimes people telling other people about how dangerous other people are is a smart thing that you can do. I have appreciated the heads up my friends have given me about creepers and abusers who are near my circle of friends. This is no different. Her poor judgement and lack of integrity will probably show in other areas as well.

    3. Liane*

      “I’ve lost people to Covid. People who were healthy, not old and chatting to me over the phone one week and then dead a couple of weeks later.”
      I am so sorry. That happened to a friend of mine early in the pandemic. One of his other friends was a young, healthy woman–then she got sick, was put on a ventilator and died days later. My friend was devastated & her widower as well.

      I am angry for the OP too. OP I hope you, your niece & friend have fully recovered.

    4. Batgirl*

      Continuing to suggest something is not a big deal after someone’s hospitalised me for a week is something I could not let pass unremarked upon: “It was very frightening, actually” or “I was in fear for mine and my niece’s life, and extremely worried for a friend who had to help me out of an impossible situation” or “my friend is incredibly upset with the situation actually.” or “It is a big deal and it’s a matter of sheer luck that it didn’t turn out to be a bigger deal” or “Well, I had not gone out in months for the very fact that it is a big deal” or “Being hospitalised for a week is usually a pretty big deal”.
      I wouldn’t be truth bombing her on every occasion going forward but I would have to say it at least once before setting the temperature to chilly formality.

      1. Lyudie*

        That struck me hard too, three people getting sick including one hospitalization is NOT everything turning out fine.

        1. JM60*

          Even if no one was hospitalized, COVID can cause long-term lung damage even in asymptomatic people.

          1. Gaia*

            Exactly! DID everything turn out fine? Or are one (or all) of these people going to suffer long term health effects because of the DH’s carelessness? How dare they suggest everything is fine

      2. SweetestCin*

        “But it wasn’t that awful”

        “Except that now my Dr is monitoring me because my heartrate is not behaving properly, and suddenly I have asthma. I know that these could be sparklingly awesome coincidences, but my medical doctor suspects they’re related. So even though my symptoms were mild, you still suck for coming in sick.”

      3. Forrest*

        also, like, a 2yo child not being able to see her primary caregiver for a week is A BIG DEAL. Especially if the reasons she’s cared for by her aunt are that there were other disruptions to her family life and home.

    5. Gaia*

      I’m sorry for your loss(es). I have, too. I don’t forgive people who don’t take this seriously. I understand the OP doesn’t have the luxury to do so, but I’d be so hard pressed to stay even a single minute at that job after they way they handled this. I hope as soon as they can, the OP gets out and gets somewhere better. And then warns others about the way this company treated their employee.

  12. Empress Matilda*

    Wow. I would be LIVID. And contemplating burning the entire place to the ground, other than the fact that you still need a paycheque. I don’t even know you, and I’m livid on your behalf!

    Could you escalate this to the board of directors? Tell them you’re not convinced that the managers and HR are taking this seriously. Typhoid Mary says everything turned out fine, despite the fact that she infected three people – one of whom is a toddler, and one of whom ended up in the hospital, FFS.

    And also tell them that your own manager and HR consider the matter finished, but you don’t. Then tell them what you still need – confirmation that Mary will not be back in the office until the lockdown is lifted? An apology? I don’t imagine anything will make this right for you, but I do agree that you need *something* else from these nitwits.

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Wishing you all a speedy recovery, and please send us an update when you have one.

    1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      You make a great point here about how OP’s manager and HR consider the matter finished but OP doesn’t. Rightly so since OP is probably still recovering from COVID-19. A case severe enough to land her in the hospital for a week doesn’t just ‘go away’. OP will likely be experiencing lingering effect from her infection for months if not years and potentially the rest of her life if her heart or respiratory system sustained damage. Long-COVID is a real thing. I know several others have pointed out that there likely isn’t enough proof here to bring a lawsuit, but if you don’t get further response from the company I do think that sitting down (virtually!) with an attorney to discuss what options you have would be warranted. An attorney could at the very least send a scary letter to the company and help you protect yourself from any potential retribution if you push this and the company decides you’re a problem for them.

      1. Greg*

        Small tangential nitpick: Just because you were hospitalized doesn’t mean you’ll automatically suffer from Long Covid. My 79-year-old father spent 10 days in the ICU last spring but has since made a full recovery. He was on oxygen for a couple weeks after he got home but has had no complications since then (that we know of). So it basically did “go away” in his case.

        As far as I know, they have yet to determine why some people suffer longer-term symptoms and why others don’t. But I’ve yet to hear of any correlation between severity and duration.

        1. meyer lemon*

          Long-term symptoms aside, the trauma and fear of being hospitalized and having your friend and niece get infected as well isn’t something that will just fade away. I think the office is being shockingly callous with their “no harm done” response. If I had just been hospitalized, I would be floored by that. I’m so angry just from hearing this second hand!

          (I don’t mean to imply that your comment was suggesting otherwise, I just thought it was a convenient place to register my extreme rage at the LW’s company.)

          1. Greg*

            Agreed. As much as I fear the potential physical health risks of getting Covid, the psychological health risks loom equally large in my mind. Dealing with the symptoms, being cut off from contact with all other humans including my family, and living in constant fear that those symptoms will progress would be an awful ordeal even if the physical stuff never got bad. Not to mention the guilt at infecting others (which, to be clear, wasn’t the OP’s fault, but would nonetheless be a natural reaction). It’s horrible that the DH put the OP’s life at risk, but her crimes hardly ended there.

          2. Dahlia*

            I was in the hospital for a week a year ago and I’m still dealing with some of it. I couldn’t eat mashed potatoes for months which sounds super funny til you realize it’s a trauma thing.

  13. Kittens&Ponies*

    I wonder what can actually be done about people coming into the office sick, and if anyone cares. A cafeteria worker came into work sick at my company, and also a manager who worked in a small room with 6 other people for a WHOLE WEEK while she was sick, before she got tested. Those of us who know about it are outraged, but everything continues the way it was. We’re forced to come in because we’re an essential business and nothing changes.

    1. Liane*

      I learned from my assistant manager there was at least one person in our store who was exposed/ill (not sure which as he usually worked a different shift) & had been working before getting so much as negative results. This is food service so he shouldn’t have been working while sick with anything contagious, even in the Before Times*. I used to think this was a pretty good employer for the industry, since they’d always treated me quite well. Now? I’m quite glad I am leaving due to a move, and I certainly won’t give them as glowing a recommendation as either a restaurant or an employer as I would have before learning about this coworker.

      *What Carolyn Hax calls our pre-COVID lives

      1. tangerineRose*

        I haven’t eaten out except for U-Bake pizzas since mid-March, and this encourages me to keep to that.

    2. virago*

      Ugh, this is not right. I am so sorry that you have to deal with this.

      Two separate COVID outbreaks in Oregon have been traced to a person who went to work while sick, then later tested positive. Seven people have died so far; hundreds have had to self isolate. (Google “Douglas County, Oregon.”)

      It’s worth dropping an anonymous tip to the best local media outlet. Or contact Pro Publica. They’re a national investigative journalism nonprofit that’s done a lot on COVID in the workplace. They also have local and regional level initiatives too.

    3. JustaTech*

      Even before COVID, in some industries (food service) there are regulations about working while sick. The problem is enforcing those rules. One way we did that in my city (very liberal) was to require sick time (a lot of sick time) for every employee down to just the tiniest businesses. It was sold to the public explicitly as “so food service workers don’t have to work sick and contaminate your food”. And interestingly, after the new sick leave law was implemented, our next flu season wasn’t as bad (my city also has a long-running flu study), possibly because people stayed home when they were sick.

      What really needs to happen is a major cultural shift, starting in elementary school. No more “perfect attendance” awards. More paid sick leave for everyone, so people can stay home when they or their family members are sick. More generous WFH policies so people can stay home when they’re “just sniffly”. And no more lauding people who work when they are sick.
      The famous story about how Gene Kelly performed the famous “Singin’ in the Rain” scene while really sick? That should be told with pity, not “how it should be”.

    4. Circe*

      I worried about this a ton for the past six months. My sister is essential retail and if anyone calls out for any minor symptoms (headache, stomach ache, sniffles, whatever), they are put on mandatory two-week quarantine. Each employee got one paid two-week quarantine, which was everyone essentially used up by June.

      Now, employees (many of whom are min wage) have to choose. Do you bet that your sniffle is just allergies (and possibly come to work with COVID) or be cautious and take two weeks without pay? Hard choices all around.

  14. introverted af*

    I think it’s important of OP to consider that the things Alison suggests asking about may have happened and she wasn’t informed. That’s really crappy if they didn’t, but I can see HR saying that the division head’s disciplinary action isn’t other people’s business. But again, she should apologize, and there’s a pretty obvious case here for firing the division head.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      In other situations, I agree that the division head’s disciplinary action wouldn’t necessarily be communicated back to the OP. But in this case, I think the company should reassure OP that she won’t be exposed to Covid again if she does have to come back to the office. That is – quite literally – the least they could do under the circumstances.

      1. Liane*

        Yes the company should be able to assure her of that. Which reminds me–did the company even both to disinfect the place, since there was carrier in there for months. And with at least 1 unsecured entrance so who knows who else might’ve been there?

  15. Fiona*

    I can imagine a situation where two people accidentally crossed paths and there were unfortunate consequences that were nobody’s fault. But:

    – Admitting to jamming the door so it could be opened without her card because the readers were locked (!!!!!)
    – Using the OP’s office because her own office would be recognized on video calls (!!!!!!!!!)
    – Admitting she had not been feeling well but still didn’t stop coming in (!!!!!!!!!)

    I’m really aghast. I don’t understand how she wasn’t fired.

    1. Monty and Millie's Mom*

      I KNOW!!! This is just – even aside from the COVID situation where people “feel very strongly”, the ADMITTED breach of security and manipulating video calls is enough to let her go. Unfortunately, the OP doesn’t have any say in this – except to maybe point that out and lean harder on it, MAYBE – so I shouldn’t get hung up on it, but uuugggghhhhhhh, I CANNOT EVEN!

    2. K in Boston*

      Agreed! Was totally with you and Alison at first like, “Ah, of course that’s terrible, but a thirty-second discussion in a hallway where you happen to run into someone, that’s a very unfortunate accident…”

      …and then reading on and on about the levels of active deceit and the lengths the manager went to in order to conceal the need for any accountability. Yikes.

  16. Cheesehead*

    If there was ever a reason to name and shame through leaking this story to a reporter, I’d think this would be it.

  17. CatCat*

    Very ICY civility toward her (like bare minimum to get the job done). I’d be telling everyone on my team what happened. And when I left, Glassdoor review. I’d also consult with a lawyer just to find out if there’s anything you can do to cover yourself financially if you had medical bills stemming from this or end up with more down the future, especially since the long-term effects are unknown and there may be complications down the road. I don’t blame you for being absolutely livid.

    1. Firecat*

      You have to be careful with Glassdoor. If you leave specifics companies can and have sued GD for user information claiming libel.

      So saying that management seems unfriendly towards women – fine. Saying you personally saw the CFO stare at a coworker a rear with his hands down his pants on a public hallway… That can get your user information turned over to the company.

        1. Self Employed*

          So you’re saying the company wouldn’t sue? Or that it’s worth fronting the legal fees if you’ll probably win?

    2. cncx*

      my first concern was what were her medical bills from being hospitalized for the week and were those taken over yet by her employer. But you made a point about what if there’s long covid…

  18. Aepyornis*

    Well, we’re getting an early start for Worst Manager of 2021.
    When I started reading, I thought “Well, this sounds unfortunate but…” until I got to “It couldn’t possibly be made-up, no one has that sort of wild imagination.” LW, I’m truly sorry about what happened to you. I cannot imagine how disheartening this after the massive efforts you have made to keep everyone safe over such a long period.
    How does this episode that ended up with 3 people infected with a deadly virus qualifies as “everything turned out fine” in anyone’s mind? And besides the actual consequences, who would want to keep some with such poor judgement and recklessness in their company?

  19. ???*

    Did your manager test positive for covid? Because if not you don’t really know if it was her. With the lock being jammed anyone could have been coming in and using your office and printer.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Is that a thing that people normally do? Just wander around random buildings looking for open offices, so they can sneak in and use the printer?

      I mean, I’m sure it’s possible, but is it actually likely? Wouldn’t it be more likely that the person who was coming into the office with Covid symptoms, was also the person who infected OP with Covid?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I live in a rural area. In SOME circumstances it would be normal for a person to use their key and run into a workplace to do a few things after hours. Typically, this would be smaller places and not places like retail chain stores.

        What is not normal is jamming the lock, disobeying rules and so on. So Pre-Covid and in some arenas running into a workplace to do a few things could be normal here in some settings.

      2. Not Me*

        I had employees finding homeless people in offices in a major bank office in downtown Chicago not that long ago due to an unsecured door. Yeah, it happens.

        1. Owlette*

          Yep, my small office had homeless people living in the bathrooms for a couple months at the beginning of COVID lockdowns. The main door was supposed to be secured with a keypad, but the door wasn’t latching correctly. It definitely happens.

          1. Self Employed*

            It happens, sure, but would they be discreet enough that nobody would notice? My neighbors let their homeless friends in our building and they leave everything from cigarette butts to trash to cellphones to human waste around.

    2. JustKnope*

      Occam’s razor, my friend. There is a very obvious cause/effect here. Also even if a rando was coming into the office to use the printer (???) the OP didn’t physically interact with anyone but the division head so…. yeah.

    3. Liane*

      Even if Random Printer User Off The Street was the actual vector, it’s still the DIRECTOR’s fault because DIRECTOR was the one who jammed the lock so RPUOTS got in.

    4. Batgirl*

      You think the person who forced her way in to the building illegally, contaminated a couple of rooms without any heads up to the ONE person who was supposed to be there and was playing with someone else’s child, went and got herself a test do you?

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If I were the company, I’d be angry that the division head left us open to someone coming in off the street and STEALING the printer. And anything else that isn’t tied down.
      Thinking more I realize the division head doesn’t need to have given Covid to anyone to be a problem. Her actions meant that OP & OP’s niece were working in an unlocked building without knowing it.

  20. Astrid*

    Honestly, the security violation of propping the door open is a beyond fireable offense! I mean, especially since there is no actual proof she gave the OP covid…even though the evidence highly suggests it. (Honestly can’t imagine someone not leaving their house for 10 months, I would have gone insane, thank God for a job that has kept me going into work)

    So, even if everyone wants to play dumb and downplay 10 days in the hospital(!!!) I’d use the door propping and open disregard for local ordinance (that actually resulted in a fine!) as leverage to get some action…but alas, I am not this person’s boss, nor does it sound like OP has leverage either.

    Totally nuts.

    1. Batgirl*

      That was where the line was drawn for me. That and the whole not using her own recognisable office obfuscation. I think there when rules aren’t clearly set or enforced from above some people don’t really absorb or understand them. But this was deliberate deceit.

  21. Person from the Resume*

    She says everything turned out fine so there’s no need to be mad. My manager says I need to cut her some slack, and both HR and her manager say the matter is finished even though she got us sick and both she and the company had to pay fines to because she broke the rules.

    Their are obvious hints that this took place outside the US and given the lack of mention of medical bills, my answer assumes that there are none. Please feel free to tell the division head that you, your friend, and your niece were frightened and traumatized by getting COVID. You were in the hospital for a week in fear for your life so there’s a long term impact. The long term, life-long impact of COVID is currently unknown so it’s not “fine.” Also tell this to YOUR manager as you explain why you can no longer work with the division head. I’d recommend being firm and saying it often if needed.

    1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      Potential language here: “I am not comfortable working with DH directly. DH has irreparably harmed me and my family by knowingly interacting with us when she knew she wasn’t feeling well. My health has not fully recovered from my week-long stay in the hospital and I expect to experience lingering effects for some time to come.”

  22. Bertha*

    Yeah, I suspect the Division head never wore a mask, because if she was alone all the the time, there is hypothetically no need.

    Even if the OP and neice wore masks, it wouldn’t have protected against someone who was ACTIVELY SYMPTOMATIC, and breathing out into the office air all day long. Heck, she could have not even interacted with her directly and with poor ventilation in a small office, it could have been a problem.

    1. Temperance*

      Yep. And she was using the same space that OP had been utilizing, which, of course OP wouldn’t have expected because DH was doing so in order to hide that she was breaking in to the office illegally to avoid working at home.

      So even if, hypothetically, OP and her niece were wearing masks, and DH was wearing a mask, DH touched all of the office equipment in both the office OP was using and the printer room, AND DH had the nerve to approach OP’s niece.

    1. Double A*

      Yes. While the manager’s actions were reckless, there is a really ugly history of attempting to criminalize and ostracize people with certain diseases (e.g. AIDS).

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      My thoughts! What if she’d hit them with her car and they’d survived? Same situation!

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I the US (which I don’t think the letter is set), the prosecutor/police decide on criminal charges. “Assault” not a civil issue for which the LW can sue for by hiring a lawyer. The police are not going to take any request from the LW to report this as a crime seriously.

        1. Firecat*

          Is that true? I know that public prosecutors could “press” charges but can’t a citizen request it as well if they were the victim?

          1. But There is a Me in Team*

            Firecat, In my state, (and in most) crime victims have a legally mandated voice in the process and are kept informed, but no a private citizen can’t mandate that the authorities “press charges” for a lot of reasons. One being that we have a huge victim and witness tampering/intimidation problem already and if criminals knew that victims decided these things, watch out. Also I know of an ongoing instance where the family members of a domestic violence perpetrator are just hammering the local police, trying to force them to charge the victim with things that are not crimes, like staying at the store longer than she said she would be gone, hereby forcing him to “babysit” his own children. Don’t get me started.
            So as above commenter said, police/DA’s decide on charges ultimately.

          2. Lexie*

            Its more that if the victim isn’t willing to testify the DA may not file charges because it would be difficult to prove their case unless they have a ton of physical evidence, other witnesses, surveillance recordings, etc.

    3. Maggie*

      Do you think the police or the district attorney would actually more forward with those charges? Do you honestly think “coming into work not feeling well” meets the legal standard for assault with a deadly weapon?

  23. DivineMissL*

    I agree that the Division Head should not have been in violation of COVID regulations. But I don’t see where in the letter that the OP says the DH actually had COVID; it’s only stated that the DH “admitted that she wasn’t feeling well”. Did the Division Head actually have COVID?

    1. Paulina*

      Short of getting a court order for an antibody test, which I expect isn’t feasible, there’s no way to know. Her behaviour isn’t indicative of someone who would’ve gotten tested of their own accord, and it doesn’t sound like the company required it from her at the time.

  24. Stormfeather*

    Urgh, I’m with everyone else and you have good reason to be livid.

    Unfortunately if you need the job (which it sounds like), your best revenge so to speak might involve lying low for now until you do find a new job. Then once you’re out, blast it on Glassdoor, name and shame, everything else. Let people know what sort of company this is.

  25. Suzy Q*

    LW, I am furious on your behalf. Not to mention there is still SO MUCH we don’t know about this virus or its long-term health implications. Were it me, I’d be speaking to an attorney, even though legislation is being rushed in some states to mitigate corporate liability.

  26. Lynn*

    This may be a dumb question, but is this a worker’s comp issue? She clearly contracted at the office while doing a required work task.

    I’m wondering if this employer would care more and take this more seriously when they have to foot the bill for a week long hospital stay and all follow up appointments.

  27. LKR209*

    OP, I would take any medical bills incurred for you and your niece (if there was anything that insurance didn’t cover) and take them to HR, insisting that the company pay those costs. If not, I would seriously considering getting a lawyer involved. I would also ask your friend to send you any medical bills *she* incurred as well from this and bring those in as well (since she helped you out when you were unable to care for your niece – I am still seeing this as the company’s fault though) It is the very, very least your company can do to make you whole.

  28. Observer*

    Cut her some slack? CUT HER SOME SLACK?!?!??!?

    Is your manager out of her mind? It could be the the incident is “closed” because the company did what it needed to do even if they didn’t tell you. But your manager is waaaay out of line. There are some aspects of this that I might have some sympathy for, even while totally agreeing that this was totally out of line. But the level of gratuitously endangering people is simply so far over the line that I can’t even muster up the faintest shred of sympathy.

    I mean, even people with a mild cold or flue have the sense to not get to close to other people- yet she INTERACTED WITH YOUR NIECE *and* SHE KEPT IT A SECRET!

    And now she is telling you that it’s no big deal?! That alone merits NOT “cutting her some slack”. Telling someone that being put in the hospital for a week is a HUGE big deal!

    So much so, that this alone would have me questioning her judgement. Put it on top of what she’s already done, and I hope she’s on her last chance.

    1. Batgirl*

      It’s beyond the wrong tack. Both HR and the DH should be holding up hands of acknowledgement if it really is their hope that OP will move on.

    2. Paulina*

      The “cut her some slack” bit has me wondering if she gave an excuse as to why she felt she had to work in the office. It’s an expression that IME is usually followed by some sort of justification as to why the slack should be given (eg. “she’s dealing with a lot” or whatever). I don’t think any kind of excuse would justify the violations, though, and if anyone should be given extra slack it’s the OP who is recovering from Covid and was hospitalized. Maybe it’s just that the DH is on thin ice, but the manager can hardly expect the OP to be sympathetic.

      1. linger*

        There may be reasons for “cutting some slack” that can’t be shared with OP, depending on whether VP’s home situation actually allows her to work there, or even stay there safely during a lockdown. But it would have to be something pretty impressive. And it still wouldn’t excuse the VP’s negligence in circumventing security and in failing to minimise risk to others.
        (Real example: I’ve had to spend most of the last month living in my office, because a downstairs tenant decided a water leak had to be coming from my apartment, which resulted in my water supply being shut off and the floor torn up. Spoiler: No leak was found.)

  29. AKchic*

    If this is the US, is the company paying for the LW’s (and niece and LW’s friend’s) medical bills since it was the division head that *caused* them? That is the only fair thing to do. What about compensation for the lost income?

    Telling a victim to essentially “get over it” is horrible and completely tone-deaf. It doesn’t solve anything and exacerbates the issues. It also ensures that the victim is aware that the person telling them that doesn’t care.

    I’d be speaking to an attorney/solicitor/whatever they are called in your area. Find out what your legal options are. This was absolutely preventable and the division head did nothing to prevent it, nor did the company actually do anything once they found out about it.

    1. Lexie*

      If the company provides health insurance that would hopefully cover most of the medical bills. If they provide sick leave there may not have been any lost income.

      1. AKchic*

        in the US, even great health insurance has copays. Not everything is covered. And even with sick leave, let’s be honest here – the LW never would have needed to take time off if the division head hadn’t been doing something wrong in the first place. And that sick leave that was used could have gone to another illness (a two year old can catch colds/bugs or get fevers, have an accident, etc.). Not to mention the friend who isn’t even employed by the company but also suffered due to the division head’s irresponsibility.

      2. Lizzo*

        Nope – with many healthcare options in the US, you have to meet a deductible (which is frequently a four-digit number) before the insurance starts covering the majority of costs…and even then the coverage is not 100%, depending on the services provided.

    1. IStealPens*

      Oh – and as is usually the case – your HR sucks. while you may not know what action if any was taken against her, this is still massively egregious and you didn’t deserve the brush-off. And she cost your company a fine?? Extra SMDH…

  30. mlem*

    I agree, tell everyone you encounter. I also like the idea of telling the Board, if you can trust them to care.

    OP: Tells everyone how DH actively broke laws, violated security, put them in the hospital, and sickened their toddler.
    HR: Stop badmouthing her!
    OP: How is it badmouthing? You said yourselves it’s not a big deal!
    HR: …
    OP: Tells everyone how DH actively broke laws, violated security, put them in the hospital, and sickened their toddler, and HR supports DH’s actions.
    HR: Stop badmouthing US!
    OP: How is it badmouthing? You said yourselves it’s not a big deal!
    HR: …

  31. Double A*

    So the manager’s bar for “everything turned out fine” is “No one literally died.” I mean, putting someone in the hospital is within the realm of acceptable consequences of her actions?

    And this is REALLY the type of judgement your company wants to keep employing?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      So someone has to die in order for a situation to “seem bad”???
      I am not sure that is a gauge we really want to use.

      1. Observer*

        I’m sure that it’s NOT the gauge we want to use. I get that you were being a bit flippant. But this is just so impossible…

  32. I should really pick a name*

    Totally disregarding the COVID stuff, I’d fire her for disabling a secure door. Repeatedly. For months.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes I think that would be a better course of action.

      Proving that a particular person was the source of a disease to a legal standard is incredibly difficult and would be really hard and expensive (at least in the UK) in my view.

      In my company jamming the security doors or disabling or bypassing them is a misconduct / security issue and you can face disciplinary proceedings. It would make a lot more sense for the company to deal with her for the conduct issue rather than the infection one.

      1. Stefie25*

        Personally I would have fired her. She deliberately bypassed a secure door. However I could see her just getting a write up. If she works in a huge office building with doorman security, normally there’s 1000s of people heading through but right now there’s only like 10 & they have special dispensation because their work is essential but confidential & can’t leave their office, and OP’s office is on the 15th floor. Down the long hallway, take a left, a left & then a right & that’s how you get into the office, I could see a write up because the chances of someone testing doors & finding the office’s unlocked one is just too minuscule.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        It’s actually quite common on early posts for people to suggest that someone’s a candidate for worst boss of the year, probably shouldn’t derail too much on this because I know Alison has asked people not to get into worst boss stuff too much at this time of the year.

        Possibly because December is traditionally a month of updates and January is when more new posts start coming in?

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Although I admit I won’t be surprised to see her in the nominees when that time does come round.

    1. Stefie25*

      No kidding! I’m not sure how it works in the LW’s state (I’m from Canada) but you could demand compensation for the time you were in the hospital (if it was unpaid), coverage for your medical bills (which I know can be high in the States) & you may even have grounds for legal action. I know her higher ups were unaware of her actions but she’s still a company representative so the company is liable for her actions. When you do quit make sure you are clear to HR & your boss that this is the reason you are quitting. This & only this because it sounds like up until this moment you were perfectly happy working there.
      Plus jamming the door? They’re lucky no broke in!! Taking that into consideration I’m surprised she hasn’t been fired.

      1. Quickbeam*

        I case manage worker’s compensation claims and there’s a decent case to be made here. The exposure is so precise. I can’t believe how cavalier some peopl are with the health of others.

      2. Chinook*

        In Canada, she would also be charged with violating a health order. We have one charge already in Ontario because someone lied about being in contact with someone who was ill (which has since caused the spread of one of the variants). There are public health signs everywhere stating that you are not supposed to be outside if you have any one of the active symptoms. The manager knowingly broke public health orders, violated her company’s security protocols and actively hid that she was working at the office (and I think hiding her actions should count as a sign of guilt). This is not on the employer but on the individual who made many illegal choices daily and harmed these 3 people as well as, most likely, countless others.

        As for intentionally infecting others (by breathing or spitting in their face), it is considered assault in Canada and a number of people were charged with it in the beginning when they would spit on a cop when being arrested and claimed to have COVID, causing said cop to be isolated for 2 weeks.

    2. Bored Fed*

      The multiple layers of efforts to break the rules make it clear that she knew that she was doing wrong, and I agree that dishonest and harmful-to-others behavior is worthy of termination.
      That said, nothing I saw in the letter indicates that she was acting badly in her supervisory capacity — the problem would have been the same if she was OP’s co-worker. So, I wouldn’t nominate her for “Worst Manager.”

      1. Marni*

        I agree, the worst manager award would be for the people who didn’t fire her and dismissed this is no big deal.

      2. Observer*

        Any manager who thinks that putting someone into the hospital for 2 weeks (forget the childcare issue) is not a big deal is necessarily a monster of a manager. Because being willing to endanger people is BAD. Having that attitude about the safety of the people you have authority over is just terrible.

        So, what we have is two candidates for “worst boss”.

  33. Lily*

    The coworker might be the most probable source but by far not the only possible one. Some contaminated doorknob and the niece passing it to OP is also possible. also, how safe talking to the neighbors is might depend on other factors like wind etc.

    I get that OP is livid the coworker put her and her child at danger but it’s not sure that coworker is in fact the index patient.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      it’s not sure that coworker is in fact the index patient.

      I guess, but how sure do you need to be? We know that coworker was in the office when she was experiencing Covid symptoms – at this stage, this is more risk than anybody should be taking. OP and her niece should never have been exposed to the coworker at all, and should definitely not have been exposed to her when she was symptomatic.

      Even if the coworker isn’t *actually* the index patient, she certainly has the *potential* for it. This isn’t a court of law, where she is innocent until proven guilty – probable cause is more than enough here.

    2. ThatGirl*

      surfaces are not a terribly likely source of transmission. please trust that the OP, who it sounds like was taking very serious precautions, knows what her most likely source of infection was.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Very much true. Covid is a respiratory virus, it doesn’t survive for long outside of live human cells. Surface-to-lung transmission is unlikely (not impossible though! Practice good hygiene everyone!)

        From a background in epidemiology I’d say the probability of OP being infected by this person is pretty significant over other possible vectors.

        1. Self Employed*

          I wondered if the niece, being a toddler, was more likely than an adult to be sticking stuff right in her mouth? Or at least touching all the things and then her face?

    3. Not A Manager*

      I don’t see how the small possibility that the boss didn’t infect the family makes the boss any less culpable for her behavior.

    4. tangerineRose*

      The coworker basically broke into work for months and went to work sick (when she shouldn’t have been at work), and it doesn’t sound like she made any attempt to protect the OP from her germs. I think it would be more than reasonable to fire her for breaking in like this and leaving a big security gap.

      Also, with COVID-19 being what it is, the coworker was extremely irresponsible in that way too.

      1. Lily*

        Yep,be angry about the blocked door (!)and at the coworker coming to work sick (what the hell) but any consequences should focus on that and not on “gave them covid”.
        (Med professional here. I do know about the respiratory virus stuff ,believe me.)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’d disagree. Equal weighting on both. She could easily have killed someone. Covid is no joke.

    1. Temperance*

      Sadly, it doesn’t and this is potentially very bad (expensive) advice. Even though what DH did is disgusting, reckless, morally reprehensible, it doesn’t necessarily mean that OP is due damages from it under current law.

      1. Essess*

        The only one that will know if it is a good lawsuit or damages due is a lawyer so this is good advice to speak to one. Most will do an initial consultation for free or low cost.

        1. Temperance*

          Not most, just a select few. (I’m a lawyer.)

          Most attorneys don’t do free consults unless they’re in a few specific areas, and usually will take a case on contingency. Otherwise, really, you’re just working for free because people are going to ask for free advice and then use it to do what they want.

      2. Cat Tree*

        My company has an EAP that allows a free consultation with a lawyer. Maybe OP has an option like that. There’s no harm in at least asking if it’s free.

        There’s a big difference between bringing a lawsuit and winning in court, but a court decision isn’t the only way to “win”. While I agree this case is very unlikely to be winnable in court, a lawsuit can hypothetically be raised for almost anything if you can find a lawyer willing to do it. In this scenario, the potential best outcome is for a lawyer to officially bring the matter to the company and for them to settle to avoid court, but the settlement would include non-monetary things like changing the security system. Or course, doing this could make OP’s job miserable and there’s no guarantee of a good outcome, but OP would have to decide if that risk is worth taking.

        1. Ads*

          Agree with the general sentiment, but in terms of the EAP legal advice, (in my experience) it has come with a caveat that it can’t be used for actions against your employer, so that’s probably not the best avenue unfortunately.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Fair enough. I haven’t had to pursue anything like that so I’m not familiar. Still, OP might be able to get a one-time consultation with a lawyer that is affordable, just to see if there’s anything worth pursuing. (If that’s something OP is interested in)

  34. Manchmal*

    I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the OP to ask the company for some kind of settlement. Even if her week (or more) of work was paid, there are obvious financial costs associated with that kind of life interruption, not to mention additional costs for childcare while she was out of commission. I would tally up all of those costs, add in a healthy number of pain and suffering, and ask the company to make you whole since it was one of their employees who got you sick by not following the rules. Better yet if this demand is made on a lawyer’s letterhead.

  35. Parenthesis Dude*

    I bet a local reporter would be interested in this story. Given the fact that there were fines, they could probably prove its accuracy.

    But this would be the nuclear option. You’d almost certainly be fired if you talked to the newspaper, and even if you weren’t, they’d make you want to quit. But if you want to quit anyway, this option is there.

  36. Pigeon*

    Every place I’ve worked that wasn’t a public building (ex. a library), jamming the door ALONE would be a firing offense, and strictly enforced. Let alone the rest of this story. Covering for this person is going to end up costing this company a lot more than a fine, eventually.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      I’m having difficulty following this part of the story to be honest. Has the door been propped open for months? How were they not robbed? What other supposed to be secure thing has this foolish person put at risk?

      1. Lexie*

        Not propped open, named. You can put something in the locking mechanism of the door so the door will close normally but the lock won’t engage. So the only way to know the door isn’t locked is to open it without a key.

        1. Anonymous Hippo*

          I get that you couldn’t see it was open, but it is still just unlocked to the general public. You could just be going around trying doors.

          1. Lexie*

            I’m guessing the average thief is going to assume office buildings are locked and have a security system. Homeless people might try to get in for shelter, but may make the same assumptions about security.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      How would that change your advice to the OP, if the coworker was/ was not 100% confirmed to have Covid?

      She came to the office when she was symptomatic, and when she wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. Whether or not she actually has Covid, whether or not she turns out to be the index patient – she knowingly put the OP at risk. What else do you need to know?

      1. Can Can Cannot*

        Any claim that the division head gave her Covid would be dependent on the division head having Covid. If the division head didn’t have Covid, then the OP must have gotten it from someone else. This could impact a worker’s comp claim.

        That doesn’t change the fact that the division head was doing some pretty bad things (e.g., propping open the door). But those bad things would be independent of OP getting Covid, and could be addressed without even involving the OP.

          1. G*

            If she were asymptomatic, she would still test positive. You don’t have to be symptomatic to test positive for COVID.

  37. Greg*

    OK, there are so many things that the division head did wrong, but one I’m having a hard time getting past was that she deliberately used the OP’s office so that people wouldn’t recognize her own office in the background on Zoom calls. Hey lady, HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF VIRTUAL BACKGROUNDS?!?!?!?!

    Again, not the worst thing she did, but quite possibly the stupidest (though there is certainly a lot of competition on that front).

    1. JustaTech*

      And the fact that the DH used the OP’s office to hide the fact that they were in the office when they were not supposed to be means that the DH *knew* that they should not be in the office, and that if other people knew that she was in the office that there would be negative consequences.
      There’s no “oh, I didn’t know!”. She knew she was doing something wrong and did it anyway.

  38. A Teacher*

    I’m glad that you recovered from this but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t lifelong repercussions. I have a ton of friends that have had Covid, Many of them are still feeling residual affects months later. And they’re predicting for some people we don’t know the true effect of what this is going to do to their body.

    It’s also nice for her to say all is well when you are the one that is going to have to pay the co-pay for your hospital visit and your medication and all that. I know mine is not cheap. Who have to cover the medical bills? I’m guessing not your company or your coworker that got you sick

  39. Essess*

    Your company has not done anything. I would be speaking to a lawyer about your options against the manager. Discuss with the lawyer if there is additional liability for the company, but the manager was the one who put your life in danger.

  40. SMH*

    Go to your work and check the door. I bet she’s still going in and jamming the door so she can. Unjam it so she cannot go back into the office. Contact every health department in your area and see if they can do anything. Send any medical bills, deductibles etc, to her and/or the company including a huge bill for friend having to take care of a sick child. Explain that while it’s true no one died-not sure if that was her goal or what she would have done if you had- you still suffered and had bills because of it and you need those reimbursed plus. You could of course discuss with a lawyer first though and see what they can do.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Oooh, I would 100% go check that door and remove whatever she put there to keep it from latching.

  41. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

    This is the most twisted workplace thing I’ve read in a LONG time.
    Division Head is rewarded for working.
    To recap:
    She broke the law.
    She fraudulently presented herself on videos to clients and coworkers.
    She infected multiple people.
    She keeps her job, the company pays a fine, OP is told to suck it up.

  42. Dust Bunny*

    I work in an academic library. I got an inquiry last week from somebody about a historic picture that may or may not be located in an older building that is served by my organization. We don’t have any information about this picture in our collection on that building, so I recommended that she contact the staff there to see if they knew anything about it. She didn’t get an answer fast enough and asked if I could go look for myself.

    The older building currently houses part of a children’s hospital. No, lady, I am not going on tour in a children’s hospital during a pandemic because you didn’t get the answer you wanted about your ancestor’s portrait. Maybe a year from now, but right now, I don’t want to be there and they definitely do not want unnecessary people on their campus.

  43. Frustrated Fitness Professional*

    COVID aside, if I BROKE INTO MY OFFICE BUILDING at any job I’ve ever had, I’d have been fired. Heck, if I used a key to access the building at a non-approved time, I might have been fired. I cannot believe there are no consequences to your department head repeatedly breaking into the building. The coming in when she knew she was sick is monstrous, but even without that, I can’t imagine why anyone would trust her judgement ever again. Good luck on your job search. OP!

  44. In my shell*

    I’d like to pause and recognize this unbelievably amazing friend – she knowingly literally risked her life to help her friend!

  45. Not Me*

    They have the ability to lock card readers but that security system didn’t recognize a door was continuously open for 8 months while it was jammed open? That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    1. Amanda_cake*

      I wonder if there was a card reader on that door. Not all of the doors on my building have card readers, for example.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Cheap security system. As long as the door was closed flush to the casing there probably wasn’t much to indicate something was wrong.

      In a similar vein, someone roaming the halls should have triggered an alarm. Cheap system.

      1. Lexie*

        Only if there were motion detectors. I worked in a place where the alarm system only covered the doors and windows.

  46. 3456*

    The letter doesn’t actually say OP has confirmed the Division head tested positive and had COVID-19. I’m assuming you know for sure the division head did have COVID?

    1. Ciela*

      if OP and her niece and been no closer to ANYONE than about 20 feet, while outside, since last March, they could only have gotten COVID from the person breaking into their office, repeatedly.

      1. 3456*

        I disagree. The VP should be fired for the breaking in, of course. I take COVID incredibly seriously, but it’s sneaky as all hell. My neighbor got it recently, and she hadn’t left her home since April. Another friend just got diagnosed, and they’ve been holed up at home for months. I don’t think it’s at all possible to pin this on the VP, even if the VP didn’t feel great. It could have been a door knob, left on the grocery delivery, so many different possibilities. We also know it’s airborne, and 6 feet is a guideline, not the end all be all. I’m a hiker, and if trails aren’t semi-busy, I stay off of them. We’ve all seen the videos and graphics of how it easily spreads on surfaces and things. I just don’t think you can blame one person and say definitively you got it from them. But yeah, the VP should be let go do the door jamming.

    2. Observer*

      You don’t need a confirmed positive test in a case like this. It certainly looks, sounds and walks enough like a duck.

      And given the rest of her behavior, I would not trust her even if she brought in a note from her doctor that she did not have Covid.

      1. 3456*

        Yeah, no. If I hadn’t even been tested for COVID, and someone else kept accusing me of giving it them, I’d be the one making
        a trip to HR. Again, the jammed door is beyond the pale, but no one gets to unilaterally decide that someone else has, and gave them COVID without some sort of proof. That’s bananas.

        1. Observer*

          But you don’t need a test. If someone like that – who has been lying her head off, using someone else’s office without telling them and who CAME IN SICK – complained that they were accused of giving someone covid, they would get short shrift. Because given what the OP says, that really is significant evidence.

        2. Self Employed*

          I would go get tested and THEN if it was clear I had never had it, I would tell HR I am not the one who gave her COVID.

          I would not just go in and say “I know I had all kinds of symptoms but she can’t prove I had COVID so that’s not fair!”

  47. mystery lady*

    I’m so sorry. I’ve worked for a company with leadership that was as selfish and entitled as yours. My only option was to get out. Your boss and HR are powerless. (doesn’t excuse their behavior, just explains it)
    I wish I could give you better–or any– advice.
    I hope you, your niece, and your friend are feeling better.
    Hopefully, you will be out of that job before you need to go into the office again.

    1. Observer*

      Your boss and HR are powerless. (doesn’t excuse their behavior, just explains it)

      I dis agree. Maybe HR is powerless. But the OP’s boss DOES have power over their own reaction. The idea that the OP needs to “cut her some slack” is obscene and it’s a stand that the manager does NOT have to take.

  48. Anonymous Hippo*

    I had the exact reaction AAM did, thought it would be accidently and them bam, WTF??

    If they got fined for this, IDK how they can’t get in trouble for not censoring the person responsible for the breach in protocol. This seems like it could be much worse for them if you wanted to push the issue. Obviously I’d look for new work also (I’m not a fan of threatening/taking legal action and then staying, to me it feels to much like blackmail), but I wouldn’t set aside the idea of legal action once you have an exit strategy. Not just for punitive reasons, but clearly the fine wasn’t enough to make them change their behavior.

  49. Warm Weighty Wrists*

    Everything TURNED OUT fine? After OP spent a week hospitalized?? So, like, the only way she thinks anyone has a right to be mad is if someone actually died? Is that legit her argument here? It really sounds like she and the company ADMIT she infected OP and that she broke into the office and they’re just… like… don’t be mad if you’re mad you’re the real meanie?
    [one million question marks here]

    1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

      Everything turned out fine.
      When you walk out the door for your new job, be sure to thank your supervisor for letting you know everything worked out fine.
      “Thanks, I was so worried when I was in the hospital with Covid that i’d have long term lung issues. And I was worried that my preschool niece would have breathing problems later in life. But I told my family that you said everything worked out fine and we were so relieved!”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “And I mentioned to my doctor that YOU said it was all fine so he quickly threw out all the Covid studies/research and articles he had. No need to worry about life long damage anymore.”

  50. covidpositive*

    This might depend on what she meant by “not feeling well” but kept coming in.

    I had allergy symptoms, at work, for months. My throat has been dry, and I’m thirsty a lot. Normally this goes away after I leave for the day. So when they started doing right outside my office door, my “allergies” Suddenly got worse and I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t know I was sick, I only know NOW in hindsight. I don’t know what this person’s symptoms were, but is there a chance that there is hindsight in her case?

    Not everyone knows they have this at first – I have no idea what day my symptoms started, because it snuck up on me.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think the symptoms details is not as important as the fact that she was coming in at all. The region is fining all people who go to work unnecessarily and the workplace had locked everyone out. Everyone. This was because the threat level was so high that asymptomatic people were equally a risk, and healthy people were at risk of catching it! Honestly in those conditions you don’t go out at ALL, but to go out while unwell AND get all handsy with someone’s kid is kind of gobsmacking.

    2. Jennifer*

      I have allergies too so I get what you mean. But in this situation, I don’t think it’s relevant because she didn’t need to be there and actually broke the law and company policy by coming in. There are a lot of people who have to chose between coming to work sick or not being able to feed themselves or their kids but she isn’t one of them.

    3. Lizy*

      Very true. I know someone who has seasonal allergies and for them, COVID presented just like seasonal allergies. I don’t know the exact details, but it was a very similar situation – they didn’t know they were actually sick for like a week or two. They took their temperature (I don’t know what led up to them taking their temp – they may have felt worse or spouse suggested it or who knows – I just know the temp was taken) and it turned out they had a fever.

      That being said, and giving this person the benefit of the doubt that maybe they really didn’t know… the rest of it is bonkerbananas and should NOT be overlooked.

    4. Temperance*

      Why do we need to consider the nicest possible interpretation of DH’s actions here, and make excuses for her? She wasn’t supposed to be in the office, period, and had messed with the office’s lock and was using an empty office to hide her actions on video. She knew what she was doing was wrong, and did so anyway.

      1. covidpositive*

        I’m not trying to make excuses for her. She obviously broke a lot of rules and should be held accountable. I’m only commenting on the fact that they say she is aware she wasn’t feeling well. But this isn’t black and white, COVID sneaks up on you.

        1. Observer*

          Again, you are giving her the benefit of the doubt when she doesn’t deserve it. I don’t mean in a moral sense, but in a pragmatic sense. Everything she did indicates that she most definitely was NOT paying basic attention to what was going on but just made a mistake about her health. In fact, the reverse.

    5. Observer*

      Given the rest of her behavior, I do not think it is at all reasonable to try to stretch to figure out that maybe somehow there was some amount of good faith. Because the amount of bad faith on display, and the utterly cavalier attitude displayed by the DH makes it extremely unlikely that you are right.

      1. covidpositive*

        I agree. Had this been an accident, I would have been more understanding. I just hope no one thinks *I* meant to show up to work while not feeling well. I genuinelly, 100% did not know I was sick that day. I thought I was just breathing construction dust

  51. Eye roll*

    I just can’t even…

    Every time someone says it’s “not a big deal,” I’d be snarking so hard:

    “Putting another employee in the hospital for a week is not a big deal? Can I get that in writing?”
    “Compromising building security on purpose for months is not a bid deal? Can you send that to me for my records?”
    “Harming a child is not a big deal? Can I quote you on that?”
    “Lying and misleading the company and other employees for months is not a big deal? Can we add that to the handbook?”

  52. Yvette*

    Sadly proving it would probably be very difficult. Has DH actually tested positive? There could have been other exposure, according to LW “Before the pandemic, I already had my groceries delivered due to the convenience and that continued.” Was she vigilant about disinfecting everything that came into the home? It is my understanding that the virus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on stainless steel and plastic surfaces. I am not trying to shift blame at all, but these are all points that would be raised. Unfortunately what you know and what can be proven are often not the same.

    1. Dahlia*

      “Detectable on surfaces” is not the same thing as “transmissable”. There have been basically no reported cases of people getting covid from surfaces.

        1. Fish*

          Because it’s hygiene theatre. Something easy to do that makes supermarkets etc look like they’re doing something useful, and makes us feel like we’re in control.

          1. Chris too*

            I believe there have been a few reported cases of transmission proven to be from surfaces, particularly in countries with negligible covid cases, where they have the ability to seriously track this stuff. Even if there hadn’t been – there are so many cases of “gee, I don’t know where I got this from,” why are we assuming it doesn’t get spread that way?

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Basically for the same reason you should wash your hands after working outdoors. You may not have an open wound and get tetanus but it’s far better to not even take the chance.

          (Kinda like using protection when having nookie – if there’s even the slightest chance of a disease you use it)

  53. Jam Today*

    “She thought that if I said I was free Thursday afternoon or Friday morning for a meeting that I had no other work to do during that time.”

    What on EARTH.

    Although, that certainly would explain a lot about my own job, where I think I’ve maxed out at 11 hours of calls in a single day, and average 6-7.

  54. JM60*

    There’s some evidence that some people may end up with permanent lung and/or heart damage following COVID (search “asymptomatic COVID long term damage”). So just because you, your niece, and friend made a recovery doesn’t mean “the matter is finished”. You might suffer some effects down the road.

    Though it would be risky, I would hope that you sue the head of your division and win. People like her deserve to be sued, but often aren’t because it’s difficult to prove you got the disease from them.

  55. TurtleIScream*

    At this point, since it’s obvious the company wants to keep division head, the the OP should be able to ask for a nice severance package. There’s no way she should be expected to work with this woman, or for this awful company, and she should not have to take the financial hit while waiting for a new job opportunity.

  56. Archaeopteryx*

    OP, keep making noise about this. Write out a letter describing exactly what she did, what the consequences were (your illnesses and hospitalization) and what they could have been (death). Then send it to your grandboss (or whoever up the chain) and ask very clearly what the company is going to do about it.

  57. Jennifer*

    I teared up reading this because I know how you feel. I can’t offer anything but empathy. My husband was exposed at work. His coworker’s girlfriend is a teacher that recently had to go back to in-person teaching so she caught it there and gave it to him. He kept coming to work knowing he was exposed and did not get tested until he lost his ability to taste.

    I should add he has told us he doesn’t need the money and the job is just a second source of income for him.

    One other person has already tested positive and we are awaiting our results. I am so angry. There likely won’t be any consequences. All the company cares about is money.

    Stay strong and I’m glad you and baby girl are okay.

  58. CupcakeCounter*

    Holy crap!
    A similar thing happened to my best friend’s husband this past week. A manager tested positive but didn’t tell anyone (and lied to the health department that they were permanent WFH even though they had been going into the office) and after a required meeting last week 3 people have reported symptoms. While doing the contact tracing, all 3 mentioned this meeting and it came out that the manager had tested positive shortly before the meeting. They figured that since they had a private office and a mild case it wouldn’t be a big deal to continue going it. Guess what they don’t have? Private entrance, private kitchen, private bathroom, etc… And they attended the meeting in person.
    Manager in question is a relative of the founder/owner so consequences will be minimal but all 3 employees have reported the manager to any and every hotline they can find.

  59. UKbased*

    OP I understand your anger completely. The same thing happend to me. Fortunately I was only in the office 24 hours not a week but it was still really, really scary so I can only imagine how you feel. I didn’t get an apology and I was pressured into coming back to the office after my self-isolation ended. When I finally put my foot down and said I wanted to work from home until lockdown was lifted I was met with passive aggressive comments and repeat reminders that I could come into the office and that it wasn’t that big of a risk. I don’t have much to add that will help you but just know you’re feelings are more than 100% justified and I’m so sorry you’re going through all this.

  60. Lizy*

    I agree. I saw the headline and honestly figured it was an accidental thing, same as Allison.

    This was not accidental. Even in my ridiculously rural area (and yes, you’re probably right about the type of people who live here and their opinions on politics and COVID), anyone who felt/feels sick IMMEDIATELY stays home. Willingly. WHY someone who is in a hotspot won’t do this is beyond me.

    OP, I hope your company has a come to Jesus moment and you get some resolution. I’m sorry.

  61. Charly Bee*

    It sounds like OP is someplace, perhaps outside the US, which is under a stricter lockdown. If the DH was coming in against legal mandates and the company isn’t doing anything about it, perhaps OP should report the company?

  62. Just Here*

    Wow, this sucks so bad. I would be FURIOUS, especially since you have gone over and above to avoid being exposed. I’m glad that you were able to recover.

    I don’t know what state you’re in and know that the rules/emergency orders vary broadly, but this may be an OSHA issue since it sounds like a workplace transmission. Maybe they can offer some additional guidance. Not sure if that played into the fines that were already levied though.

    1. JustMe*

      This is exactly my thought. This is OSHA reportable since you were in the hospital and they are stricter reporting requirements since it required in-patient hospitalization.

  63. RunShaker*

    OP, your letter really hit home. I’ve learned that many people don’t care anymore & that you can’t trust your “bubble”. I guess it is pandemic fatigue & I was feeling it. People think, well I’m sitting 6+ feet away from the person exhibiting symptoms so I’m good. I’m also kicking myself for being too trusting. I found out 2 supposed close friends allowed an acquaintance to sit with them at their table at restaurant (they were dining in). The acquaintance told my 2 friends he had 3 symptoms (body aches, no sense of smell or taste). They didn’t do anything, they continued to visit with him. I found out the same evening what happened. I ran into 1 of close friends next day when picking up food to go & I couldn’t believe he was eating in. I found out the close friend was mad that we refused to sit with him & that he though sitting 6 feet away with no mask was enough to not be exposed. My SO said I was rude. I told my SO I didn’t care what he thought. I reevaluated how we’ve been handling ourselves recently & realized we have become lax in reference to going to restaurants. Luckily this all happened about 8 days ago & no symptoms & we’ve been staying home just in case. What happened to me & your letter is a wakeup call.

    1. Self Employed*

      Yes, this is why the restaurants closed again in my region. Too many people being careless.

  64. Gaia*

    OP – PLEASE tell me you did not have to pay a single penny or lose any compensation (including sick time or PTO) for the time you were ill. Or your niece. Or your friend.

  65. Specialist*

    I would have the discussion with HR about switching this to worker’s comp. You will have deductibles and copays for your medical expenses. Worker’s comp gets you paid for the days you were unable to work. If you can’t get worker’s comp you have lost PTO or sick time because of this Typhoid Mary. You should argue that you shouldn’t be charged PTO/sick time for this week in the hospital. Or perhaps Typhoid Mary should donate a week of PTO for you. I will also point out the recent article in the Lancet regarding Covid symptoms. At 6 months people were still struggling with muscle pain and weakness, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression in significant numbers. We don’t know when or if people will recover from these issues.

  66. Laura H.*

    Firstly I’m sorry to hear that you were ill OP, that sucks. I hope you, your niece, and your friend recover well.

    Secondly, geeze… I could understand if the coworker went in when well, and ONCE under an order from her boss (and with proper… authorization if need be) to grab something. But multiple frequent visits when unwell?!- That very much boggles me.

    But I’m one who doesn’t even think before not going to work/ other functions (aside from an appointment) if I don’t feel well. Well most of the time-I did ask a second opinion recently because I was very much on the fence between “it’s likely just allergies and general fatigue, I can power thru” and “I don’t feel at 100% and the last thing I want to do is have something that’s communicable in the workplace and think it’s nothing/ I distinctly remember feeling this way when I caught the flu three years ago at this same timeframe.”

    Called in, and one televisit to my doc, a flu test and a Covid test (just to be thorough) later- came out Covid positive a day later. My case is mild, but even so, I’m glad I didn’t go into work that first day I wasn’t feeling well.

    I’ll admit, a lot of what has been keeping me careful is “I don’t want to be a vector for this if I can help it.”

  67. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    Have you brought up to management/HR the issue discussed extensively upthread that she left the office unsecured for eight months so she could illegally sneak in? They might not care about you, but they might care about that…

  68. Lizard*

    There’s a lot here that’s upsetting, but the line about “cutting her some slack” is really over the top. That’s more about the manager and HR wanting the OP to stop talking about it, and that’s crap. I have no idea if OP has a legal case, but it would be worth a discussion with a lawyer to find out.

  69. employment lawyah*

    Honestly, if she isn’t really “holy shit I put you in a hospital for a week and could have killed you” level-apologetic, I’d consider a suit. You may want to talk to a lawyer about that. The behavior you describe isn’t criminal, but you got really sick (that’s very much “damage!!”) and everyone, including her, seems to have admitted to a lot of bad conduct. Normally the causation aspect is pretty hard to prove–this is an unusual case though.

    You may also have a claim against the company, because it is QUITE possible that they actually knew what was going on and looked the other way: Of course they will claim they wanted to follow CV regs, but most companies would be overjoyed to have a higher-up doing onsite work and they may well be lying. If one dug into that a bit, I wouldn’t be surprised to find culpability there as well.

    And at the least the company should be making sure that HER actions don’t end up being entirely carried by YOU, i.e. it’s one thing to take leave/vacation if you randomly get ill, and another thing if your boss(!) gives it to you.

    But other than things like lawsuits and vacations and leave, you should have an idea of what, precisely, you expect here. An apology? You should get that. Getting her fired? You can’t demand that, really; they will handle it internally and as a rule it’s the company, not the victim, who gets to choose.

  70. Katie*

    Anyone else wonder if the employee who continued to use the office might be homeless? It’s the only reason I could think that she would do what she did, and why management was telling the poster to basically let it go…

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