my employee keeps coming to work sick

A reader writes:

Now that the pandemic is “over” ( /s) and all the rules and restrictions have pretty much been lifted, I have a question: as a manager, what can I do to make people stay home when they’re sick?

I’m the director of a mid-sized public library, and we have a librarian, “Brian,” who has myriad health problems accompanied by an apparently very low immune system. He also is hyper-driven to come to work, dragging himself in despite the protests of his colleagues. The only person he’ll listen to is me when I tell him he has to go home, but I’m not always in the building to enforce this. I have had to drive him home due to illness multiple times (as has another staff member, too many times to count), and I even took him to the emergency room one time at his request. He has gotten the rest of us sick over and over by coming in to work and refusing to go home — he’s a walking super-spreader.

We all know that a major reason for this is that his wife is intensely controlling, and we think he comes to work because she forces him (we not-so-jokingly say she’s driving him into an early grave for the insurance money). He is also intensely protective of his leave balance, despite maxing it out and selling time back to the city if/when vacation buyback is offered (if it’s not offering, he just loses it).

We have one staff member with long Covid, one who’s just finished treatment for cancer, I have Lyme disease and a low immune system, etc. etc. — and that’s not to mention all of the immunocompromised patrons who come in our doors every day.

I’ve tried to get him to work from home when he’s unwell and he refuses, saying if he goes home he’ll just go to bed; I feel like if he is so unwell that he needs to go to bed, he should go home and keep his germs to himself.

Most recently, Brian tested positive for Covid two weeks ago after an international trip, took a few days off, came back to work and wore a mask for a day or so, and then tonight texted that he has a fever and tested positive for Covid again (rebound?) — and I’m currently home sick with Covid-like symptoms. I think he gave it to me, argh! I’m so tired of feeling like I’m his mother, managing his sicknesses and feelings about taking time off and dealing with the fallout when he gets the rest of us sick. Is there anything I can do to make him stop spreading his nasty germs?

You’re his manager. You have a ton of power to solve this.

Often when people have this complaint about a germ-spreading coworker, there’s very little they can do about it. They can beg and cajole and ask someone above them to take action — but ultimately they’re at someone else’s mercy.

That’s not the case for you. You can and should use your authority as a manager to insist that Brian stop coming to work sick and stop putting patrons and colleagues at risk.

The conversation you need to have is: “You have repeatedly come to work while sick and infected other people, including me. We have immunocompromised employees here, as well as immunocompromised patrons. You cannot knowingly come to work while you’re sick. This is not optional. If at any point you are concerned about your sick leave balance, please come to me so we can figure it out. But you can’t continue showing up ill and potentially contagious. I will send you home every time that happens, and if I learn you stayed here sick while I wasn’t present, I will consider that a serious issue that we need to act on. Can you agree to this?”

Now, because you work for the government, you might need to run this by someone above you to make sure they’ll back your authority to require this and that they’re not going to require you to navigate it differently. If your employer is particularly crappy in its bureaucracy and you know this won’t be an easy sell, use your knowledge of your organization’s politics to navigate it. That might mean adjusting the language above, or it might mean going to HR and saying “this is the outcome I want; how do I get there?” or it might mean just quietly acting on your own. It’ll depend on your particular flavor of government bureaucracy.

But you do need to act, because Brian’s behavior could have consequences more serious than just giving someone a cold.

{ 428 comments… read them below }

    1. business pigeon*

      Library buildings are also full of patrons who are sick. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “the kids were too sick to go to school, so we decided to come to the library!” Urgh.

      1. Selina Luna*

        Yeah, when I worked in retail, we got some of that too. “I’m too sick to go to work, so I thought this would be the perfect time to bring in my laptop to be fixed.”

    2. Le Sigh*

      As the relative of someone who is immunocompromised and has limited mobility — and who reads maybe three books a week and loves his weekly library trip — I do not want him near Brian either.

  1. Jane Bingley*

    I had naively hoped, early on in the pandemic, that it might reset our cultural norms for the better and it might become seen as strange and antisocial to come to work sick when you don’t have to.

    Now it seems the opposite has happened and people take illness less seriously than before, somehow.

    Sigh. Please stay home when you’re sick.

    Signed, your disabled colleagues.

    1. Anon Again... Naturally*

      Same here. I’m still masking due to a seriously immunocompromised family member, and the looks and attitudes I deal with when I go out are infuriating. But while pre-pandemic I felt like people who were truly sick would stay home and I wouldn’t be bringing anything deadly home, I no longer have that level of trust.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I once saw someone on Twitter say that their life was more important than their labour and that’s why they mask at work, and that has really stuck with me. I stay home when I’m sick and I mask in the office because I refuse to get COVID from work.

        1. Up the Down Staircase*

          I’m a high school teacher, and I still mask at work for the same reason. I work in a petri dish. I don’t want to get sick from work. So far so good – I haven’t been sick since 2019!

        2. KlayFeetz*

          Hello, my people! Same here. Even if all I get is 2 weeks of misery, I’m frankly at this point not willing to go through that because of someone else’s carelessness. I get strange looks and probably it has affected my prospects at work, but I simply don’t care enough to be sick (and possibly long-Covid sick).

      2. Dahlia*

        A friend of mine is severely immunocompromised. If she gets covid, she will almost certainly die. She is almost entirely house bound, mostly only going to medical appointments.

        She wears a mask that SAYS “immunocompromised” on it and people still come up to her and cough in her face on purpose.

        1. What’s In A Name*

          This is horrible and should be considered assault. Wearing a mask doesn’t hurt anyone around you, but not wearing one can be life threatening for many. It’s hard to imagine the type of person who would do something so cruel and despicable, and I’m sorry your friend is dealing with this.

          1. GrumpyPenguin*

            It’s a “my inconvenience matters more than your health” attitude. There will always be people you can’t reason with.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Seriously. And they’re not even inconvenienced! In this case, it’s “my desire to not feel weird / uncomfortable matters more than your health,” which is even worse!

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          This sucks. I hope everyone that does this to your friend steps on legos every day for the rest of their lives, at a minimum.

        3. Recovering the satellites*

          After some googling I found a number of criminal charges that held up against people who deliberately coughed on others, mostly “thanks” to adapting to pandemic-borne needs.

          Does where your friend live allow for carrying personal safety alarms, dog spray, or safety umbrellas, and the like? Often just showing someone you have can will deter them.

          It’s her LIFE at risk, after all.

        4. Simona*

          Oh my goodness. I only recently stopped wearing a mask and I also always wear them on planes and thankfully have never had anyone say anything to me at all about it. Especially at this point in time in 2024.
          I’m wondering if writing “immunocompromised” is making things worse somehow. (It shouldn’t but…lots of things arent the way things should be)

      3. GrumpyPenguin*

        I also immunocompromised and rarely go out, but wear a mask when I do. Since I started it, I haven’t had a cold, allergic reactions or Covid. But I can’t count the times when people yelled or coughed at me or even refused me service. I simply can’t wrap my mind around the fact that so many people get furious about using masks and common sense.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I’m fortunate that I get funny looks and the odd comment, but nobody has given me any real trouble. (And no, I’m not a white dude). But when people have been weird about it, my go-to is telling them how odd it is that they care what I have on my face.

        2. Star Trek Nutcase*

          I’m not immunocompromised but have lots of outside allergies. During Covid, I discovered my allergies pretty much disappeared due to masking. So now when I go outside, I try to always mask – even just the 70 yds to my mailbox or on trash day. I’ve gotten looks and a few questions but no one nasty fortunately. Wish we could all just mind our own damn business.

        3. Mad_Bear_Lady*

          What the hell?! How does your choice to wear a mask impact other people in anyway, ever? Ridiculous behaviour

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            A big piece of it is that seeing masks breaks the illusion that everything is back to normal and they don’t need to worry.

      4. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

        I was at the ER yesterday with my husband. Other than us, there were only 2 or 3 people masked – for the entire 5+ hours that we were there.


        1. postscript*

          I have taken people to appointments in the CANCER WARD and nobody but us, not the doctors, nurses, staff, or patients, wear masks any more.
          Why bother treating people for cancer if you are just going to kill them with Covid or one of the many other airborne diseases going around?
          They stopped wearing masks in the PREMATURE INFANT WARD!! Where masks were ALWAYS required pre-Covid.
          And nobody can figure out why health care staffing is so bad. It’s like ‘do no harm’ has been inverted. ‘Do as much harm as you can.’

          1. Alice*

            This winter I was taking my elderly mother for cancer treatments at a big academic medical center.
            The hospital staff? Barely any of them wore masks.
            The patients and their support people/drivers? Maybe 50-50.
            The conservatory student who volunteered to play the piano in the oncology waiting room one morning a week? She wore a mask every time.
            Of course, this hospital stopped reporting nosocomial COVID rates to the state government as soon as it could. And they only counted it as “hospital acquired” when it was an inpatient who had been in the hospital continuously for >14 days before diagnosis. How many people stay in the hospital for two weeks anyway?
            Anyway, I hope the cancer patients in your life are doing well, and that their providers get a clue about infection prevention sooner rather than later.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      Signed ALL of your colleagues!!
      I’m so peeved that this is still a problem. And in social situations as well. Just don’t go out if you’re sick please!
      Haven’t we learned anything?

    3. A Fellow Library Worker*

      Yes please. People act like I have two heads because I wear a mask. I’m just on immunosuppressant medication for my autoimmune disease. Please let me go about my life without getting sick.

      1. borealopelta*

        Same here. Have multiple chronic issues, including an autoimmune disease I’m on immunosuppressants for, as well as living with my 81-year-old grandfather with his own health issues. I’ve been wearing a mask every day since the beginning of the pandemic and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon. It’s been years now, people, you can just talk to me normally without making snarky comments about masking/vaccines/the “evil” CDC/whatever the flavor of random political crap they feel like spouting!

    4. Tired*

      Same. I feel crazy. I thought, if we learned anything (and there was so much we could have learned but didn’t), it would be to STAY HOME WHEN SICK (especially for the many jobs that can be done at home if necessary). But… nope. I’ve given up. I used to go to my manager to try to get something done but now that the CDC has become a capitalist sell-out, I feel like there’s no one on sensibility’s side. So I just wear my mask and stay home when sick… and judge those that don’t when they very much should and could.

    5. Let your body rest*

      I don’t get it. Even before the pandemic my boss set me up to work remote if I was sick. His words were “if you are sick stay home. If you feel ok to work you can log in on VMWare and work at home. If you show up sick I’m kicking you out of the office.”

      It’s been nice to have a no questions asked sick policy. I also love being able to not burn PTO for bad colds. My time being sick has gotten shorter at this job. I remember illnesses lasting nearly a month because I was never allowed to take time off unless I wanted to lose my job and income. As a result I never got to actually rest and let my body do its thing.

    6. The Voice of Reason*

      It is far from clear that Brian’s actions after his bout with Covid were improper.

      Previously, CDC guidance called for five days of home quarantine after becoming infected. Updated guidance merely says you can return to Norma activities when, for at least 24 hours, your symptoms are “getting better overall” and you have not had a fever. Patients can take “additional precautions,” such as masking, for the following five days. They can return home if they feel worse or develop a fever.

      The timeline of Brian’s activities broadly seems consistent with this guidance. Now, you can argue that the guidance is flawed, or that the CDC should not have consolidated guidance for Covid with that of other respiratory viruses , but I think it is difficult to fault an employee who follows CDC guidance. That’s what it’s there for.

            1. The Voice of Reason*

              “Complete bunk” and “not remotely based on science” are strong charges.

              The CDC has basically tried to harmonize its guidance for influenza and covid, on the grounds that patients are more likely to heed consistent, simplified advice. They’re not the same virus, of course, so it’s been critcized for this harmonization; justifiably so, in my view, although I’m sure CDC would push back on this criticism. I don’t think that equates to “complete bunk,” however.

              1. Clarity*

                We can understand Brian’s actions while also criticizing the guidance that led to them and making others (including Brian!) aware that that guidance is as you point out a simplified set of rules that bring COVID in line with the flu — which means they are not an appropriate or effective set of rules and so if you are a reasonable person who believes in keeping others from getting sick, it behooves you (and Brian and all of us) to go beyond those simple rules. I see you support the criticism but look, “not based on science” is a totally valid way to put it (and bunk is just being colloquial IMO).

                COVID is not the flu and so treating it like it is, is irresponsible of the CDC at the least and downright evil if we believe they are doing it knowing that more people will die or become disabled because of it. I would hope they would know that since they are meant to be experts in public health and science, but then again I would hope that our government leaders aren’t actively evil so…. Here we are.

                I have long thought that the “simplify so people will follow” argument is BS. People who are rule followers follow rules to the best of their ability. People who aren’t aren’t and weren’t going to anyway. When you lower the bar, you give rule followers an excuse to not be as careful because unless they are paying close attention they believe that the CDC’s rules are based on science and infection period and contagiousness, not “will people rebel if we ask them to do this”. Those of us who have been paying attention all along have watched as everyone has moved from “follow the science” — masks works! COVID is infectious before you’re symptomatic — to “we’ve got to live our lives!” — go back to work as soon as your fever breaks and probably you should mask but ehh who really cares.

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Cannot agree more. There are so many people who disliked all the regulations but still followed them, and the second they changed the guidance they basically all threw their masks away and stopped bothering with any precautions at all. Most of my family and friends included. It’s so frustrating.

                  And my dad now constantly tries to make me feel like the fact that I still won’t eat inside at restaurants because I want to be masked when indoors with a bunch of strangers is wildly overreacting and he points to the CDC and tells me *I’m* the one note “following the science.” It makes me so mad honestly.

      1. OP (anon library director)*

        Hi there! This is the OP/letter writer chiming in. Yes, absolutely – his actions were theoretically within CDC guidelines, which is why this situation has been so tricky. The problem with “Brian” is that he hides his symptoms, including if he has a fever; time after time he’s only gone home after I’ve had to badger him into letting me take his temperature (and it turns out he has a fever) or if his symptoms have been so bad that I/we can tell he feels so terrible he should go home without trying to drag out the truth and invade his privacy (we’ve considered calling our fire/rescue department a few times, he was so dizzy/weak/etc.). Regarding this last go-round of illness when he had Covid and the CDC guidelines — I’m not sure he really was “getting better overall”. He said he did not have a fever anymore, but I don’t know that I can enforce any kind of temperature-taking; he was coughing, but not so much that he was passing out/throwing up; he wore a mask for a couple days when he came back, but I’m not sure really what that timeline was like for how long he should have worn a mask (and then I got sick with what definitely felt like Covid; I did not test positive for it, but I’ve had it twice and it felt very, very much like Covid, as opposed to the flu or other virus.) Overall there was a definite lack of transparency regarding when his symptoms came on and how he was feeling when he returned because he forces himself to come in to work, regardless of whether he’s actually fit for duty or who he might get sick. I think the CDC guidance has to go hand in hand with taking personal responsibility, and that’s what is unfortunately lacking in the extreme in this situation. Alison’s advice is both helpful and heartening – as are all these comments! Thank you all!

        1. mlem*

          Would it work, in your context, to tell him that *because he has a long history of hiding his symptoms*, if he’s claiming to be fever-free, he has to demonstrate that by letting you take his temperature? You wouldn’t be claiming authority over everyone, simply showing him that his prior lack of integrity has consequences. If he goes, say, an entire year without being proven wrong, you’ll consider relaxing the requirement; but every time he claims not to have a fever but is contradicted by your check, the clock resets.

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Weird tangent. This isn’t about Covid, so everything you said is irrelevant to the advice. Also, this behavior isn’t a one-off. It is not at all difficult to fault an employee who regularly comes to work ill and infects his colleagues.

        LOL on your username as well. It isn’t reasonable to expect Brian’s coworkers to be forced to be around him when he is ill, especially when he has plenty of sick time. Brian’s behavior is entirely improper.

        Did you know some people actually care about others and would not want to make them sick? Clearly, you are not one of those people, but most of us have empathy and kindness that would lead us to behave well even if we aren’t being forced.

      3. JM60*

        The recommendation I see from the CDC is”

        if you test positive for COVID-19, you stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home. You are likely most infectious during these first 5 days. Wear a high-quality mask when you must be around others at home and in public.

        If after 5 days you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, and your symptoms are improving, or you never had symptoms, you may end isolation after day 5.

        Regardless of when you end isolation, avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 until at least day 11.
        You should wear a high-quality mask through day 10.

        It seems that Brian’s coming to work after he took a few days off likely violated at least the last requirement of not being around high-risk individuals until at least day 11 (even if he didn’t know that a coworker went through cancer treatment and has long COVID, plenty of others come through libraries).

        Given everything else, I also suspect that he didn’t meet the first condition either (fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication and symptoms gone or improving).

          1. The Voice of Reason*

            This link from 2022 is outdated; the CDC published updated guidance about six weeks ago. (I posted a link, but it disappeared.)

      4. xylocopa*

        That’s probably why Alison’s response doesn’t even mention Covid and is not suggesting disciplining Brian based on Covid compliance.

      5. Oregonbird*

        When guidelines directly contravene all scientific information and are written to meet political and economic policies – it’s our job to follow the science, for the good of the community. Your approach is a little too pre-WW for me, and 100% guaranteed to cause unnecessary spread of illness and death.

      6. Jasmine*

        But how about some common sense and love and respect for our coworkers?! “Love never fails”!

      7. Alice*

        The current CDC guidance isn’t “patients CAN take additional precautions for five days,” ie, one can take precautions or not take precautions, you do you.

        Here’s the actual CDC guidance:
        “When you go back to your normal activities, take added precaution over the next 5 days, such as taking additional steps for cleaner air, hygiene, masks, physical distancing, and/or testing when you will be around other people indoors.”
        CDC doesn’t identify any specific precaution as required, but “take added precaution” is a directive, not an option. And that’s just reading the words of CDC’s guidance, watered down as it is.

        What’s more, CDC’s current guidance also says:
        “If you develop a fever or you start to feel worse after you have gone back to normal activities, stay home and away from others again until, for at least 24 hours, both are true: your symptoms are improving overall, and you have not had a fever (and are not using fever-reducing medication). Then take added precaution for the next 5 days.”
        Clearly he is starting to feel worse after going back to normal activities, if he needs his manager to drive him home!
        So I don’t understand how exactly he is following CDC guidance.

      8. Ellis Bell*

        Working from home when you’re a bit sick sick, or trusting your own self assessment that you actually are very sick when you feel you really should be in bed sounds pretty “normal activities” to me, Covid or not.

    7. Lucia Pacciola*

      It’s definitely changed the norms in my workplace, which happens to be a major multinational corporation. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

      It really sounds to me Brian is an outlier who is completely oblivious to the (changing) norms, not a representative of those norms. Maybe you don’t need to sigh just yet?

      Signed, let’s not despair for humanity just because of one anecdote about one person’s extreme behavior

      1. Plate of Wings*

        It’s definitely changed the norms in my social circles. Everyone I know (mostly people in our 30’s) refrains from as much as possible while sick. My peers were not this way before 2020 with colds or any similar symptoms.

      2. Kathy*

        yeah +1, my circles definitely still are taking contagious disease risk more seriously and isolating/masking a lot more when sick

      3. Ellis Bell*

        It must not be the same everywhere. I have never seen or heard the “I am offended by your mask” reactions people report on here, but it is clearly common in some places.

    8. Sled dog mama*

      This 1000x. I told my mom recently that the #1 thing I learned from the pandemic is that America as a group are really stupid and cannot be counted on to do what is in their own best interest.

  2. OrigCassandra*

    You may also have to run this situation past any applicable unions, OP. With luck, someone Brian is endangering is also in the union!

    But it’s worth the hassle. Brian can’t keep doing this.

    1. Observer*

      You may also have to run this situation past any applicable unions, OP. With luck, someone Brian is endangering is also in the union!

      Yup. That was one of my first thoughts. If you get the union on your side – frame this a worker protection thing – that will help immensely.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Great point. Brian’s actions are directly putting the health and safety of his colleagues at risk. I hope they’re receptive to that. Sadly, I don’t know if my union would be – they’ve been pretty crap about pushing for COVID safety.

    2. doreen*

      Unions will be unpredictable, especially if Brian is also a member. The unions where I worked talked out of both sides of their mouth depending on who they were representing at that moment – even as they were complaining that my agency wasn’t keeping people safe because COVID was running rampant through the offices , they also objected to every measure my employer took – masks and testing requirements , temperature taking , screening questions, isolation requirements after a positive test.

    3. Annie*

      The fact that the OP works in a Public Library probably means that they are not part of a union -maybe this can get the ball rolling though!

    4. OP (anon library director)*

      OP here – for better or for worse, we do not have a union to provide support in this situation, and our locality has an HR department but they are not active/engaged (I have reached out to HR but have not received a response to set up a meeting to discuss). My coworkers and I have talked with him innumerable times about how his actions are jeopardizing the health of both his colleagues and our patrons. He is unmoved by that approach: he will insist he is not contagious til he’s blue in the face, and then it will come out after the day is over and he’s gone home that he was sick and contagious the whole time (he’ll text that evening and say he has a fever or that he went to urgent care after he got off and has something else wrong that we knew was an issue the whole day). When he gets back from whatever time I was able to force him to take off, he then refuses to take part in any meaningful discussions about it – it’s sort of an “aw, shucks, I’m just such a hard worker and love the library, I don’t want to let my coworkers down” kind of attitude. It’s hard because he’s a “Really Nice Guy” – his overall personality is that of someone who would literally give you the shirt off his back and he goes out of his way to be helpful to many, many people – so when these incidents pop up, his reasoning and reactions are very out of character. Even when he’s not ill in a contagious way (but in a concerning way, like fainting/dizziness or heart concerns) he still refuses to go home, and I haven’t felt like I’ve had any leg to stand on to make him go. The contagious incidents have finally happened enough times that I can’t in good conscience let it go on: both the jeopardizing other people in the library, and the coming in when he’s clearly unwell and refusing to go home but not able to actually be productive. These comments are really helping me feel more confident in approaching this with him – thank you all so much!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        The thing is? Really nice guys don’t make their health the problem of everyone they work with. He’s not giving you the shirt off his back–he’s giving you various illnesses. And even when it’s something like dizziness, it sounds like you all have to rally around him and worry all day that he’s going to pass out or crash his car going home or who knows what.

        Brian may see himself as a sweet, self-sacrificing coworker willing to toil through his woes, but you aren’t obligated to prop up this version of reality. Because your reality is that he is single-handedly wiping you and your colleagues’ PTO/sick time, endangering your health and the health of the patrons, and deciding that his need to see himself this way trumps everyone else’s right not to be constantly exposed to pathogens.

        1. Miette*

          Late to the conversation, but wanted to add: Does he not also pose a liability to your org when he does things like remain at work until he’s likely to pass out at some point, either while driving or on the job, or endangering co-workers who could be seriously harmed when they catch whatever he’s got. This may be what will get HR’s attention if you need it.

          1. Anon Y. Mouse*

            Even for an org that doesn’t care about the human cost, certainly they could at least pose this as a financial liability if Brian is DIRECTLY causing other coworkers to have to be out due to illness

      2. The Voice of Reason*

        “Even when he’s not ill in a contagious way (but in a concerning way, like fainting/dizziness or heart concerns) he still refuses to go home, and I haven’t felt like I’ve had any leg to stand on to make him go.“

        With due respect, when it comes to non-contagious illnesses, I’m unsure you do have a leg to stand on. His non-contagious medical conditions are his own private business, and you can’t discriminate against him if he has a disability, like chronic dizziness.

        What you can do is refuse to stop driving him home. If he can get to work, it’s his responsibility to get home if he chooses to leave.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I don’t agree. It’s a public-facing job and I think a manager can reasonably say it’s not okay to look like you are obviously about to pass out in front of the patrons.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Also honestly pretty baffled that your take is it’s NOT okay to say someone who is noticeably dizzy or about to pass out can’t be at work but it IS okay to put them behind the wheel of a car.

      3. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

        OP you sound really considerate but if he’s unwilling to stay or go home, and risks seriously harming others, just because he’ll “just go to bed if he goes home”, he’s not that nice in all circumstances, is he.

        (That particular comment is the most ridiculous. Whatever he does or doesn’t do when he goes home is irrelevant to his obligation to stay away from work. If he doesn’t want to just go to bed, he can decide not to do that. When he gets home.)

        Likewise, if he would give the shirt off his back, but he won’t use his more-than-adequate sick leave despite repeated requests from all and sundry, is he really that generous? Or is he just in love with being perceived as hardworking?

        I hope you’ll take a firm stand with this. Ignoring a safety-related instruction from you should be jeopardizing his job, and he should know that.

        The leg you have to stand on is, “You need to stay home when sick, every time, in perpetuity.” Whatever his reasons for not wanting to do so, he can work them out on his own, not at the expense or f everyone around him.

        1. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

          (And keep in mind, you’ve issued the instruction “don’t come to work when sick”, and he’s chosen to ignore that instruction and relitigate it as a series of discrete, unrelated, one-time suggestions each time he comes to work sick. That’s a serious issue in itself.)

        2. BetsCounts*

          “Likewise, if he would give the shirt off his back, but he won’t use his more-than-adequate sick leave despite repeated requests from all and sundry, is he really that generous? Or is he just in love with being perceived as hardworking?”

          DING DING DING

          You are doing your other employees a grave disservice by letting him stay on site when he is ill. If he has driven in and is visibly unwell, I feel as though it is your right as the manager to tell him he is not well enough to be at work. He can sit in his car or take an Uber or ask his wife to come get him. Do not be drawn into any rules-lawyering ‘not contagious, blah blah blah’. Tell him to leave the building and that you will make sure the day is recorded as PTO.

      4. MM*

        I just want to add something regarding the potential impact on your other staff, particularly the immunocompromised and LC-having members. It’s not just about whether they get actually sick and whatever actual impact that may have on them long term; it’s also very significant emotionally and psychically. I have Long COVID. It is extremely important to me to avoid reinfection. My immune system is fine, at least, but even with that reading this letter made me upset – think about how we all felt when people were actively trying to spread COVID in 2020-21 and you may get close to how my stomach feels right now. If I were your coworker with LC, I would be absolutely miserable and furious at Brian being allowed to do this.

        I obviously don’t know your coworkers or their feelings about this, but I would feel that my employer was willfully endangering my life/relatively manageable level of disability. That not handling a difficult interpersonal situation was apparently, to them, worth a significant risk of making me housebound and unable to live independently again after years of recovery. I’d be making every effort I could to leave–with what little energy my library job, repeated sickness from Brian, and my disability left me to do it with. Please consider what message tolerating Brian’s behavior could be sending to your other workers with health risks.

        1. Willem Dafriend*

          YES. I got covid the first go-around from a coworker, and it’s upended my whole life for a couple years. When my coworkers don’t take communicable illnesses seriously, it sends a hell of a message they definitely don’t realize they’re sending.

          If I had this coworker, I’d start looking for a new (ideally remote) job with whatever energy I had left, and start making contingency plans for myself and my pets if reinfection meant I was no longer able to care for myself, work, or live independently.

      5. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        The solution to Brian’s behavior is simple, but harsher than most library personnel have the stomach for.

        You send him home without pay and call the days unexcused absences. He failed to report to work in a state where he could do so, and failed to provide you notice he was going to be out for the day. After however many unexcused absences your policies dictate, you fire him.

        His actions and his commentary have already told you he will. not. change. At least, not of his own accord. Formally being written up and penalized for these behaviors will inform him you are serious, and maybe that will lead to an adjusted mindset – but since that is unlikely, you terminate him, and protect your staff and community.

        Within our field, most of us hate to discipline. We’d rather have conferences and counselings, and get cooperation and buyin on the desire to change behaviors – but there comes a time when, as a director, you have to step up and be the authority figure. The one who says “No. We’re not tolerating this anymore, and your behavior must change, or else.”

        Telling Brian you are doing this is going to be hard. Prepare a script for yourself and talking points, and don’t get bogged down in specific instances or deflections. Do not minimize the seriousness of the conversation. Begin with the words “This is a serious conversation about how your behavior needs to change if you wish to continue your employment here. These are/will be the consequences if it continues.”

        I know it sucks. It has sucked every time I have had to do it. But you owe it to everyone in your community and facility to do this thing.

        1. The Voice of Reason*

          You send him home without pay and call the days unexcused absences. He failed to report to work in a state where he could do so, and failed to provide you notice he was going to be out for the day

          This advice would almost certainly constitute constructive termination by the employer; somehow you claim it constitutes “failing to report to work,” but he does just that. If he shows up and you send him home, that’s at the employer’s behest.

          1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

            You’re not claiming it is failure to report to work, you’re claiming he failed to report to work in a state where he could safely and effectively perform his job duties.

            Similar language is often used for things like reporting while under the influence. Being fit to safely perform the required functions of your job is not an unreasonable standard for an employer to hold you to.

      6. Ellis Bell*

        Is there no formal process in HR for this sort of thing? I know the regulations are different here in the UK, but here Brian would need a Fit Note from a doctor if he has had serious conditions and a return to work interview that is Not Optional. Even though I know fit notes are not a thing in the US, surely workplace safety requirements have some other set of regulations. Brian can’t seriously expect the workplace to knowingly allow someone to work when they are dangerously ill, and in this case there are safety implications for the rest of the staff too. Is there any way for HR to say he is posing a hazard, both for his wellbeing and the wellbeing (and lives) of others? That he is risking his job, unless he can show he is taking reasonable precautions for his own safety and that of others?

        1. metadata minion*

          Unless you’re working with machinery or are a pilot or something, there often aren’t these types of guidelines in US workplaces.

      7. Frankie*

        Fire him! He’s insubordinate! I don’t understand, you have all the power here!

  3. Cubicles & Chimeras*

    Alison’s answer here is so appreciated. I wish more managers would be more emphatic about not coming into work when sick. (Particularly those who can operate hybrid!) I had to deal with a coworker hacking and sneezing all day yesterday and I still feel gross thinking about it.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I’m not sure what the situation was with your coworker, but I do think there’s a real difference between going to work sick with something communicable and going to work with something like allergies or a chronic cough. The latter is irritating, but I’d argue it’s within the standard range of “human bodies are gross and make annoying noises/odors” issue with sharing space with others.

      1. Purpleshark*

        In the spring while the trees are shooting spores everywhere I have a horrific asthmatic response. I can agree with your sentiment because even with the constant nebulizer, specialized inhaler, and copious medications I still sound horrible. I do mask out of consideration for others even though they can’t catch what I have because they don’t know that. I also don’t want to give a whole long explanation.

        1. Pam*

          I get horrible allergies. I’m so grateful that I can work from home. My coworkers are very grateful too

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Considering that the tree pollen is currently thick enough that all cars are vaguely yellow, I’ve found a quick “Sorry, allergies!” works after a sneezing fit.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I’ve seriously considered making a tee shirt that says that for the joys of spring.

      2. Smithy*

        Yes, I do think this is where the OP has unique standing and isn’t looking at a case of “is it allergies or a communicable disease”? The fact that Brian has come in with such an elevated level of illness that rides have been required home or to the ER – even if the illness is allergies or another issues that isn’t communicable – that’s being unwell enough to not be at work.

        Essentially, if you had a colleague with allergies, and they were staying at work post exposure until their hives or other symptoms became so bad they needed to go to the ER, and were doing that regularly – that would also be a problem.

        1. Artemesia*

          Masks would be helpful to lesson allergies during pollen season and would definitely lessen the likelihood of spreading respiratory illness; it is so sad that wearing one has become politicized. I had hoped we might be like Japan and people using masks when they had colds or similar illnesses and needed to be in public.

          1. AnonORama*

            Yes! Two times I wear a mask now* — public transit (including airplanes), and when I have to walk around outside during cedar season. At least then I just have itchy eyes, instead of itchy eyes, nose AND throat.

            *I’ll wear one in other situations if someone asks, or if I know I’m interacting with someone immunocompromised.

            1. Up the Down Staircase*

              Rather than waiting for someone to mask, if you see someone masking, please put yours on. Not everyone feels safe asking others to mask, especially given how politically fraught it is. Even if you know someone well or feel like they trust you, please don’t wait for them to have to ask.

          2. The Voice of Reason*

            I had hoped we might be like Japan and people using masks when they had colds or similar illnesses and needed to be in public.

            I spent two months in Europe (which is admittedly not Japan) towards the end of last year on a work project. There was significantly more masking in California than in Europe.

            1. Good Enough For Government Work*

              …Yes. Because Europe is very much not Japan.

              What an odd remark.

      3. The Voice of Reason*

        I would ordinarily buy this distinction between communicable diseases and other health conditions, but it is true that Brian has been imposing on LW for rides home when he’s ill. Those need to end immediately.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          True, coming to work when you’re too sick to work is an issue even when the disease isn’t communicable, particularly if you’re making your coworkers give you rides home/to the ER. If you can’t *work*, there’s no point in coming in.

          (Though I advocate some leeway/understanding. Early in my career I discovered an adverse reaction to a cold medicine when I fell asleep in a three-person meeting my manager was attending. I was horribly embarrassed, but I learned that “non-drowsy” daytime cold medication knocks me out.)

        2. OP (anon library director)*

          Hi, OP/letter writer here – yes, I reached that conclusion about no longer driving him home today. The line between empathy and enabling can be a fuzzy one for sure!

      4. Cubicles & Chimeras*

        I have horrible allergies so I very much understand the issues where people may think I’m sick when I’m not. But if my allergies are so bad that I can’t go 30 seconds without blowing my nose, I stay home because not only does it just look bad to everyone around me, but nobody wants to hear me do that.

    2. ferrina*

      I used to work at a company that hosted a big conference. One coworker got horribly sick a few days before the conference, but came to the conference anyways!!

      I was the first to get sick. I was in a strange city, working 14-hour days and on day 3 of a 5-day conference stint, I suddenly get sick. Literally in the middle of a meeting with VIPs. I barely have enough time to pick up meds on the way back to my hotel before I have a raging fever. I spent the next day part delirious in a hotel room while still trying to coordinate my parts of the conference remotely (no back-up; that was a different issue).

      Within a week of the conference, our entire company had gotten sick from this co-worker. I don’t even know how many conference attendees got sick. I will never forgive this coworker for knowingly getting so many people sick just so she could “see and be seen”.

      The worst part? This was a conference for healthcare workers.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        This is epically appalling and why am I not surprised?
        If I hear “oh, it’s just a cold” from any of my healthcare worker friends who are physically sitting right next to me, I might just scream.

        1. ferrina*

          Yes, she had an experienced team that could have covered her. The team had done all these responsibilities the year previous. She was relatively new in the role, and this would be her first time publicly in the role. She wanted the big meet-and-great and it definitely boosted her profile. I guess she decided it was worth getting everyone sick to get her professional boost. (oh, and it wasn’t like she only did the mission-critical work and then noped out. She did all the events and spent all the time at the conference and took no precautions at all)

    3. CR*

      Yes! I have a manager who “never gets sick” so she doesn’t understand why I want to stay home when I’m sick.

    4. Cat Tree*

      My company has unlimited paid sick leave. We also have enough flexibility that working remotely even for a week or two at a time is manageable. People still come in sick and cough/sneeze all over the place. Our office is crowded and open plan. I hate it. At this point I just feel resigned to my fate of being constantly sick. At least my immune system catches some of them. But I hate it because it’s so unnecessary.

      1. lbd*

        I wish there was a way for you to go home to avoid your sick coworker, and use their sick days to do it.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Brian is acting like only Brian’s actions affect him, and that is simply not true. Remind him of this many times, emphasizing that he lost his ability to unilaterally decide when he stays home sick when he risks everyone else’s health.

    Brian can literally cause someone to die. Don’t bat an eye when you say that.

    (I am confused as to why an allegedly controlling wife would force her spouse to come to work sick. That makes zero sense.)

    1. Ink*

      It’s not about what makes sense, it’s about what a controlling person has decided they want. It’s like the domestic version of a micromanager- there’s no well-founded *reason* Brian has to go to work, no matter what, just like there’s no business need for a micromanager to proofread and revise every email their employees write before allowing them to send them, or what have you.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, there are probably equally-but-oppositely-controlling partners out there who force their partners to stay home for every little sniffle. It’s not the going to work/staying at home that’s inherent in a controlling person, it’s the “forcing.”

      2. Smithy*

        So well put.

        I know that with email and the desire that many managers have to not micromanage, that sick days are coordinated via the ill employees sending an email or go into a digital system to inform their manager of needing a sick day. However, with Brian going home when his supervisor instructs him to – I do wonder if the OP might find a way to adapt this situation where Brian is encouraged to call the supervisor to ask?

        Essentially present it as a “new rule” – so when Brian has a fever, vomiting, whatever the major symptoms are – he calls the OP and asks what to do. It puts Brian in the position of following the rules of work, and then putting the decision making on the supervisor (i.e. don’t come in, take the sick day). This may offer Brian some face saving on the realities at home, but also if he literally has no internal voice saying “you are sick, stay home” provides an intermediate step to help teach him what too sick to come to work looks like.

      3. Dinwar*

        “there’s no well-founded *reason* Brian has to go to work, no matter what”

        This is where the disconnect lies, I imagine.

        I grew up poor. And my father worked in an industry that was notorious for firing people for little to no reason. Taking a sick day meant that you put your children’s livelihoods at risk. That’s a biologically well-founded reason to go to work sick! Men where I grew up took pride in not taking days off because it meant they were able to provide for their families; people that took sick days frequently had to find other jobs. And believe me, that lingers. It wasn’t until a project manager sat me down and ran through the risk assessment, with dollars and cents attached to each choice, that I realized that I was allowed to take a sick day–and I still try to do more than I should (though I do it from home).

        Further, what constitutes sick? I have really bad allergies, and the difference between an allergy attack and a cold isn’t immediately obvious. You’re not going to catch seasonal allergies from me, and I can function just fine, it’s just uncomfortable for me. So why shouldn’t I try to do as much work as I can? Believe me, no manager is going to put up with someone taking multiple months off every spring and fall; my options realistically are to work through this or not be able to afford food for my kids.

        I’m not saying Brian is right here. What I am saying is that this isn’t necessarily malice or ego or whatever. There ARE valid reasons to come in to work sick. They’re not GOOD reasons–they mostly stem from fear–but one can hardly be blamed for wanting to protect one’s children. And this takes the conversation with Brian into a very different direction than the belief that the only possible justification is that Brian is abusive.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          “That’s a biologically well-founded reason to go to work sick! ”

          That’s not a biological reason, that’s a social reason, and countering that logic involves the social measures OP has already been taking: telling Brian to go home, telling Brian to stay home in the first place, offering to let Brian work from home. Someone willfully ignoring every possible sign that there will not be professional or social consequences for staying home isn’t worried about providing.

        2. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

          People who repeatedly come to work sick might (should) be in danger of needing to find a new job, too. Brian has sick leave available.

    2. Observer*

      (I am confused as to why an allegedly controlling wife would force her spouse to come to work sick. That makes zero sense.

      That’s why staff are “joking” about the insurance money.

      But also people have some very weird ideas about taking time, and who is “sick enough” to actually take PTO. Or she just doesn’t like him in the house, and doesn’t care about the cost to him.

      1. Orv*

        I grew up in a family where you absolutely did not take a sick day unless you were puking or running a fever. It’s taken me a while to get myself out of that mindset, although I’ve never imposed it on others. I still feel a bit guilty when I take a sick day for “just” a cold and subconsciously expect to be called out on it.

        1. Bast*

          Yes, I was raised with the attitude that you make it unless you absolutely can’t, because that’s part of what makes a “good employee.” I’ve worked for plenty of job that reinforced this as well, by a combination of offering very little sick time and talking crap if you utilized it for anything short of hospitalization. “Soldiering through” was praised.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Likewise. I don’t remember either of my parents ever staying home sick and my last sick day was nearly 20 years ago (from not-quite-fully-cooked chicken).

          Granted, I’ve been remote since 2011, and there’s probably a dozen occasions at least when I freely admitted the only reason I was able to work was that I didn’t have to come into an office (and share whatever I had with everyone else) to do it.

          1. Baunilha*

            Same. My parents were proud to say that they never took a sick day ever. (But they have gotten sick, so…)
            Even as a kid, I could only skip school if I was *really* sick, and the flu didn’t meet their standard for that.

            1. Bird names*

              Hold up, not even the flu?
              Like, we are talking fever, possibly delirious, focus shot to hell and everything, right?

            2. Orv*

              I used to have a job where they awarded you a bonus if you didn’t take any sick days, too.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Ahh, that “perfect attendance” award from grade school only tied to your actual livelihood!

        3. Panicked*

          Same here. “Are you puking, bleeding profusely, or actively dying? No? Then you’re going to school.” Even now, I have a hard time calling out sick because I feel guilty about it.

        4. Bear Expert*

          My mom’s policy was that if you could physically get out the front door, you went in. Vomiting and a fever weren’t enough as long as you could stand up.

          Its a murderous mindset to break. The idea that I can accomplish negative work – be so judgment impaired that I will make mistakes that will cause me or someone else to have to spend more time to fix them – is what I use to convince myself to take sick days when I need them. Zero work is better than negative work.

          1. Bast*

            Oh my. Vomiting was one of the only surefire ways we were staying home from school.

        5. old curmudgeon*

          I grew up with a mother who was an MSN psychiatric nurse, and she was 100% convinced that EVERY possible ache, pain, illness, malady or complaint was psychosomatic. She sent me to school with strep throat, norovirus, broken bones and other fun things on the basis that “it’s all in your head, you’re fine, you’ll forget all about it when you get busy at school.” She was always shocked, SHOCKED I say, when told by the doctor (where she’d take me only if I begged and promised to pay the bill out of my babysitting money) that I had an actual illness or injury.

          I am sure you will all be astonished to learn that it took me decades in the work world before I got to the point of being comfortable with calling in sick.

        6. goddessoftransitory*

          A couple of years ago, I tripped and fell SPLAT a few hours before work, ending up sore as hell and black and blue all down my left side. I called out and felt WAVES of guilt for doing so, even though they were totally fine with it and felt bad for me and I was in genuine pain. It was ridiculous, I knew it was ridiculous, but that “you deserve to be fired, lazy wench” voice just jumped right up to bellow its favorite tune.

        7. OP (anon library director)*

          OP/letter-writing here – I grew up the same way. My mom was a high school teacher (no way to leave class quickly) and my dad worked 30 minutes away in downtown, so we were raised to suck it up, and I’ve carried that with me into adulthood. Like a lot of other commenters, I had a mentality shift when the pandemic happened and people were dying because of others’ lack of care; now I err on the side of caution and encourage/support all my employees in doing the same. I empathize with all of the variables in this situation: feeling guilty about taking paid leave, feeling like you’re letting your coworkers down if you miss work and others have to cover your desk shift or programming, even the concerns we have that Brian’s insistence on coming in sick stems from his wife’s pressure. But my patience with the belligerent responses and outright lying about symptoms that I get when I try to insure his safety and the safety of those in our library has finally worn out.

          1. Sagegreen is my favorite color.*

            Honestly, if I had to work with him, I would be so ticked at management for not doing more. Although I don’t know your constraints, I say, fire him. He doesn’t care about anyone’s health and you need to replace him. I certainly wouldn’t give him a ride, call him an ambulance and send him away.

            Hope you feel better soon!

          2. SparkyMcDragon*

            Is he lying and saying he doesn’t have symptoms that are visible to you? If so that may actually be a bigger problem. If someone is routinely lying to you it’s very difficult to work on performance issues with them. It’s a clear red flag that they are unwilling to take process and act on feedback and it should be part of the conversation where you address the pattern.

          3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            It’s really sad how the pandemic has left so many people completely unwilling to understand the basic concept that if you’re sick, you can get anyone you come into contact sick. And that this is a bad thing.

            Let alone people just deciding that they’re not contagious anymore. Like, how do you know that?!

      2. Green great dragon*

        Or she doesn’t have a good handle on work norms, and is convinced if he stays off he’ll get fired.

        1. JM60*

          This is partly why I want managers to inform employees that knowingly coming into work sick can be a fireable offense.

      3. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        Schools and workplaces need to stop glorifying students and employees who never missed a day of school or work. It’s a nasty way of guilt-tripping the sensible people who keep their germs at home where they belong.

        1. Bast*

          Agree. After spending the last 2/3 years telling everyone to stay home if they are sick, our schools are right back to pushing perfect attendance and sending your kid in no matter what (school nurse will determine if they need to be sent home, a parent isn’t qualified!) A perfect attendance award either means you got incredibly lucky (or unlucky, depending how you look at it) and only got sick for holidays and weekends, or that you were sick, came in anyway, and likely got others sick.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            As a teacher, it’s a really stupid way of ticking a box and causing a second one that on paper seems to cancel the other out. Students with poor attendance (as in those who miss an average of one or more days per week and often with no reason other than “I don’t like school”) are clearly losing out on their education and schools are often under pressure to “increase attendance,” but there are often very complex reasons why those kids are missing school.

            I was a little facetious above about “I don’t like school,” but by that I just meant they aren’t sick or attending a family event or anything. There are generally pretty complicated reasons they dislike school which may include learning difficulties, bullying, being a member of a minority group and targetted for it by their classmates, older siblings who encourage a dislike of education and sneer at them if they go to school or on the other hand, it may not be about school at all and may be more that perhaps one of their parents is an alcoholic and they have preschool aged siblings and are worried the parent won’t care for them properly or somebody in their family is ill and they feel they need to be at home to help.

            Schools often don’t have the resources to deal with these issues, so they often look for a “quick fix,” prizes for good attendance and so on. But of course, the kids who hate school or are being bullied or are worried about what is going on at home when they are away have incentives not to go to school that far outweigh “you’ll get a trip to the cinema and a cert.” so it only incentivises the good attenders to come in on that one day they are sick because they don’t want to miss out over one day.

            And now really you’ve got two problems, the kids who are missing out on their education are still missing out and the kids with good attendance are coming into school when they should be at home in bed and making others sick, but on paper, the school can say, “we reduced absenteeism by 5%” and the inspectors often just look at the figures and not at whether they have actually helped any kids.

            I think there still is a mindset that kids who misbehave or who skip school or don’t make an effort in school are just “unmotivated” and “need to be encouraged” when in reality, it’s a lot more complicated. And until we, as a society, accept that there are complex and often valid reasons why kids miss school and start looking at the underlying issues, I think people will keep using these kind of “solutions.”

            1. Willow*

              I missed weeks at a time of middle/high school due to migraines (actually depression/anxiety). My school didn’t really care although we did get a phone call when I’d been gone 2 weeks straight. Still graduated with a GPA above 4.0 and maxed out AP credits, so I don’t think I really missed out on much education (except the Euro History unit on Charlemagne. I definitely missed that).

            2. lbd*

              I have also seen it where difficult or misbehaving or unmotivated kids are subtly pushed out completely in order to get them off the books entirely and bring up the school’s stats without that kid dragging them down.

          2. Oregonbird*

            Schools take daily attendance because they get daily money for each student in school. It’s about the cash worth of a child’s body.

          3. Sick and tired of always being sick and tired*

            My school used to reward students who could achieve perfect attendance and I was one of the lucky few to receive such a reward.
            But I had the luck of the draw of rarely being sick.
            I despaired for classmates who were otherwise great students but were punished for non perfect attendance simply due to chicken pox, mumps, deaths in the family, etc..

      4. GrumpyPenguin*

        It would be interesting to know how much sick leave the library offers.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          However much it is, he maintains a high balance, such that he can ‘sell it back’ to his employer for cash, whenever that option is offered to employees. He’s not running out of PTO.

    3. Antilles*

      I can think of a few answers, but they’re all sad.
      (1) she’s incredibly controlling and it’s all about dominance, (2) she doesn’t care about him only about the extra $X that sick day is worth if you sell it back, or (3) she hates dealing with him when he’s sick so forces him to go to work for it to be Somebody Else’s Problem.

      1. Dawn*

        I think you hit the nail on the head with #2; assuming that OP has the correct picture here and Brian’s wife is forcing him to come into work and not use his sick days unless he can cash them out, well. Kanye had a pretty famous song about it.

        1. anon here*

          A gold digger is aiming pretty low if she married someone who works at a library.

          another municipal employee

          1. Dawn*

            I mean, you’re not WRONG

            someone who is retraining as a horticulturist

      2. Festively Dressed Earl*

        (4) Brian is “forced” to come to work because the alternative is staying home with an unbearable, controlling partner.

      3. GrumpyPenguin*

        Selling sick days back sounds incredibly weird to me . Is that a US thing?

        1. Dawn*

          They’re cashing in vacation days, and vacation/sick days are both drawn from the same pool of “PTO days”.

          1. GrumpyPenguin*

            Ah thanks, I’m only used to sick days and vacation days being separated.

            1. JM60*

              To be clear, some places in the US pool vacation/”PTO” and sick time into the same bucket. However, I’m in the US, and every place I’ve ever worked had PTO and sick time as separate buckets.

    4. Shutterdoula*

      She wants to have quiet time alone. And she’s not going to let his illness get in the way of her enjoying her day.
      Sometimes it really is that simple.

      1. Oregonbird*

        Brian lies about his symptoms. The OP has noted this is gossip and a joke. Blaming women for the choices made by men is toxic misogyny.

    5. Caramel & Cheddar*

      That stuck out to me too, but I don’t think we have enough info to parse between different versions of controlling — i.e. is this controlling as in one facet of abusive behaviour that Brian is adhering to because the alternatives are worse, or is it controlling in a more colloquial sense of “my wife is a nag, man” and he just doesn’t want to be at home with her even when he’s apparently so sick he needs to be hospitalized, etc.

    6. Tio*

      I know someone whose father will berate her if she takes time off work because she’s so “lazy”. Doesn’t matter if it’s PTO, doesn’t matter if she’s visibly ill, what matters is she’s not doing what he thinks is right.

      1. Space Needlepoint*

        Oh ick, no fun for her. It’s her PTO, what’s she supposed to do, lose it? It’s part of her compensation!

        I bet if she broke her leg he’d tell her, “You’re fine, just walk it off.”

        1. Tio*

          It’s terrible, and he absolutely would do that.

          And of course the flip side is that when he’s sick he’s an absolute baby about it!

    7. Yeah...*

      Bryan can also have agency. I don’t like the wife being “controlling” being used as an excuse. It could be true. It could be not, OP doesn’t know for sure.

      One thing I learned during Covid shutdown is there are those who use going to work to be away from other people in their household.

      1. The Voice of Reason*

        When it comes to non-communicable ailments, it’s up to him to decide whether to come in, particularly if the organization does not offer unlimited PTO and is docking his PTO. (The organization should not routinely be offering him rides home, though.)

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          Again, irrelevant. These are communicable ailments. As evidenced by the fact that his coworkers have caught them! That’s the entire point of the letter.

          Geez, at least read the letter before commenting on it.

      2. Blame Game*

        Non related by I had an ex that used me as an excuse when he wanted to get outta participating in things with his friends.
        So for about 2.5 years his friends resented me for all the hang outs, game nights, BBQs, hiking/roadtrips, pub nights that he missed out on, that I wasn’t even aware of.
        It was only when I confronted his friends for their cold attitude towards me, that we all finally realised my ex was blaming me for everything.

        Thank gosh he’s an ex!

    8. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      (I am confused as to why an allegedly controlling wife would force her spouse to come to work sick. That makes zero sense.)

      I’d figure that he’d be coming to work to escape her, but ultimately, does it matter? He’s showing up when he shouldn’t; the marital dynamics are non sequuntur.

      1. AnonORama*

        Or she’s pushing him out of the house to get him away from her. Either way, too bad if it’s baked into their marriage dynamic but not OK to be a disease vector for the whole building.

    9. EtTuBananas*

      While it’s tempting to get in the weeds here around the particulars of Brian’s marriage, it’s not what’s immediately relevant here, and I think that OP may be using the “controlling” wife as an emotional scapegoat for not wanting to engage with a conflict.

      OP, the primary issue is not WHY Brian continues to come in sick, especially as it pertains to his marriage. Some of it, like ensuring he has enough leave accrued, are of course factors you need to be in open communication about. But the fact of the matter is, regardless of the social forces that keep him continually coming in, they’re not the actual problem.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I agree. At the end of the day it’s more of a “you don’t have to stay home, but you can’t come here” (to paraphrase). He came to work with probable COVID and has been so sick on multiple occasions people had to drive him home or to the ER? This is way more than “he gave me a cold.” If nothing else, his lack of consideration for coworkers is impacting work because either people are also out sick later or they have to leave the building to make sure he’s home/getting treatment. He has a wife – why isn’t she picking him up? (I get that he may not want to deal with her but…)

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, that’s not just a case of “oh yikes, I thought it was just my allergies but it turned out I was starting a cold and didn’t realise it” or “my stomach was playing up a bit but I just thought it was all the chocolate I’d eaten and didn’t realise it was a virus.”

          If he was that sick on numerous occasions and he refused to work from home since he’d “just go to bed,” he knew full well he was sick.

          And the LW had to travel in a car with him when he was sick on numerous occasions despite being immunocompromised. That is really not OK.

    10. Irish Teacher.*

      It could be simply about control. “I will decide whether you are sick enough to miss work. You don’t get a say even about your own health. You will do as I say and if I say you are well enough to go to work, then you will go.”

    11. RagingADHD*

      It’s a made up / joke theory by the coworkers. It has nothing to do with reality and doesn’t need to make sense. They could just as easily joke that Brian simply doesn’t want to stay home because he doesn’t like his wife.

      Even if the LW says “we all know” she’s supposedly intensely controlling, it’s a very old and apt saying that nobody knows what goes on in a marriage except the 2 people in it — and sometimes not even them.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I’m loathe to play the “What if the genders were reversed?” card, but . . . if it were a female employee and her boss wrote in saying that her husband was really controlling, we would not argue with that assessment. We would be falling all over ourselves to help OP navigate balancing the needs of the library with the staff member facing emotional abuse at home.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I agree that some people here would be falling all over themselves, yes.

          I would probably still question why the boss was speculating about their employee’s relationship, since it would appear the employee never said so.

          “We all know” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, and since it is couched in the context of a pretty meanspirited joke, it appears to be more an expression of exasperation with Brian than any genuine concern for his wellbeing at home.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            I took it as the whole staff knowing a lot about the dynamics of his marriage, based on things he’s told them, and possibly interactions they’ve witnessed.

            I do not think they made it up out of whole cloth.

    12. Mango Freak*

      I’d thought the implication was that Brian wants to be at work as a refuge from his controlling wife. (The part about her forcing him to go being the joke.)

      But yeah, she could also just berate him for doing anything she sees as taking care of himself because it’s not focused on her. If she’s narcissistically focused on him as a “breadwinner,” any day he’s not at work is a day he’s cheating her, whether or not there’s a financial effect.

  5. ItsAMe*

    “He is also intensely protective of his leave balance, despite maxing it out and selling time back to the city if/when vacation buyback is offered.”

    This implied to me that sick time may not be separate from vacation time, in which case this would be a great example of why organizations should offer different buckets of PTO. I wonder how much power LW has over this, and if Alison’s advice would change if this were the case.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      +1 to this. My employer offers sick time (which they will not pay out when we depart) and vacation time (which they will pay out) in separate buckets. I have hundreds and hundreds of hours of banked sick time since I’m rarely ill, but I know that I won’t see a dime of it in a payout, and I use it when I need it as a result.

    2. Tio*

      Most libraries are govt institutions, so probably none.

      But that said, with the sellback in play, I wonder if there’s a general financial component in there that may be playing into this. They say If, so maybe Brian is in bad financial straits and is holding onto the time in the hopes for a little extra cash.

      1. Hazel*

        But he saves to the point where he actually loses it according to OP! I had a staff member who took many sick days (a good deal of Mondayitis and ‘24 hour flu’) and never took vacation. Encouraged them to take vacation to rest up, relax, maybe not get sick as much. Turned out they were saving vacation bc they anticipated a surgery with 6 weeks recovery time. Which they would have had in sick time if they didn’t use all their sick days in ones and twos. Sigh.
        My point is you never know what’s really going on. It might be worth saying ‘what needs to happen for you to stay off work when ill?’ to find out. And also ‘it isn’t your colleagues job to drive you home sick’. If the spouse is truly controlling that sounds like borderline abuse, and maybe that’s the issue – he needs help, and a room to just be in all day.

        1. Tio*

          If the spouse is, that’s true, but that room can’t necessarily be their job. And I know he loses it sometimes, but it sounds like whether or not buyback is on the table may not be immediately known. Back in the days when I had a lot of debt and desperation, if I thought there was a chance I could cash in for anything extra at the end of the year, you bet I was dragging myself in. Desperate people make bad decisions.

            1. JM60*

              Except “unlimited” vacation isn’t actually unlimited. It has a limit, but it’s just that that limit isn’t specified (or it is specified to management, but not disclosed to employees). 6 weeks for surgery is well past that limit. Personally, I hate “unlimited” vacation policies because I like to know how much vacation I actually have, and because I’d like unused vacation to be paid out when my time at my employer comes to an end.

              In general, it’s better to offer plenty of paid sick time that’s separate from vacation (but allow people the option to use vacation if they exhaust their sick time), and ideally also offer short term disability insurance as a benefit if it isn’t provided by the state.

              1. metadata minion*

                Agree, especially given how short-staffed libraries usually are. If I have a set number of vacation days, it’s easier to argue that no, really, we need to arrange things so that everyone can actually take vacation.

      2. OP (anon library director)*

        OP/letter-writer here: our locality switched to single-bucket paid leave system from a two-bucket (vacation and sick) leave system over 10 years ago. I have been flexible in letting Brian make up hours he loses when he is so ill he has to take time off; it’s widely known that he’s very intense about guarding his leave balance, and I didn’t have any issues with him making up time until the past year or so, when it’s taken on a decidedly self-destructive vibe. Our locality does not always offer leave buyback, and we don’t know if it’s going to happen or not until the forms come out from HR; it doesn’t seem to be the buyback and corresponding income that matters as he has never mentioned it or even asked if our locality is offering it from year to year, as some staff members have in the past. I really don’t understand what is driving all of this, I just know the end results for my staff and department (and for Brian himself) are all negative – and that all of these comments are providing me with a ton of courage to tackle this and get things back on track!

        1. Tea*

          Hmm yeah I really don’t think this is about Brian living on the edge of poverty or whatever fanfic everyone has dreamed up this week. And even if it was? He’s still playing Russian roulette with everyone’s health and for no real reason besides…some people just be like that sometimes (shrug emoji). That (redacted) needs to be shut down somehow.

        2. misspiggy*

          In terms of what’s driving this, it may be that Brian has been chriciva ill most of his life and has never understood what being well is, versus appearing well.

          He might always have put effort into being apparently functional, and is just keeping going with that because he doesn’t know any other way to manage his health. He might benefit from occupational therapy on rest and rehabilitation. But if that is the issue, OP is going to have to be very firm.

  6. pandabur*

    Initially I would assume that Brian doesn’t have to use PTO or paid leave if he comes to work sick then is asked to leave, as that is the motivation for some. Is Brian salaried exempt as a Librarian?

    1. Yup*

      This is my question. Is Brian able to be paid if he stays home when sick? Is the culture of the workforce/etc. that people don’t have to come in if they’re sick–with 0 consequences? Because asking Brian to work when he can’t make rent or to be singled out for missing work is going to play against anything that’s said to him to stay home.

      1. Antilles*

        OP said he has paid time off. So much banked PTO in fact that he “just loses [vacation days]” sometimes. This isn’t a case where he’s worried about making rent because a day off comes straight out of his paycheck; he has the option and is just choosing not to use it.

        1. JM60*

          Plus the OP says that he has the option to work from home if he has enough energy to work.

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            One of my partners is a librarian and their WFH days almost always include catching up on the various trainings that it can be too hectic to take in while in the library building, as well as covering emailed library questions.

    2. not nice, don't care*

      Per LW: He is also intensely protective of his leave balance, despite maxing it out and selling time back to the city if/when vacation buyback is offered (if it’s not offering, he just loses it).

  7. I don't know what to put here*

    Usually people go to work sick because they HAVE to (thanks to our generally terrible leave in the US) but HAVING great sick leave and not using it is really bananapants.

    Maybe because it’s government, there might be a way to shift him to a job somewhere where he works alone? Not public-facings.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      It sounds like he does work alone, since the OP said something about working from home. The problem is even if he is not public facing he still is bringing illness into the workplace.

    2. JO*

      Considering the circumstances this seems to be well beyond reasonable work accommodations as it reinforces the employee’s practice of working sick while cashing out their unused sick leave.

    3. OP (anon library director)*

      OP/letter-writer here: unfortunately, part of the reason he’s able to come to work when he’s majorly unwell is that I have adjusted his responsibilities so he’s not as front-facing. He is not scheduled on the front desk very often, other staff members have taken on his programming duties, etc., because he has become unreliable attendance- and health-wise. He’s taken on some back-end tasks that are mostly not terribly time-sensitive (like monthly statistics and other things that are important, but flexible in nature.) And that would be fine and understandable – except that now his tasks aren’t terribly demanding or time-sensitive, he apparently feels like if he can physically drive himself to the library and get to his office chair, then he can stay and “work” all day and not have to take leave. However, the actual work that gets done by Brian on these days is minimal at best, and it has a negative impact on everyone’s productivity at worst since we end up spending time trying to manage whatever health crisis pops up (long discussions on symptoms, debating whether he should stay or go home, someone driving him home if he’s too ill to drive, etc.). Also, our staff area is tiny and we only have one staff bathroom, so quarantining in his office is not totally possible anyway. Unfortunately, it’s become pretty clear that any sentiments of personal responsibility on his side have evaporated, and we’ve slipped from the accommodating of health issues into the taking advantage of those accommodations – especially because it’s not an overuse or abuse of leave, but the very refusal to use the leave system that’s in place to prevent this whole situation.

      1. Tea*

        “… and we’ve slipped from the accommodating of health issues into the taking advantage of those accommodations – especially because it’s not an overuse or abuse of leave, but the very refusal to use the leave system that’s in place to prevent this whole situation”

        Ugh that sucks so much. And it’s likely going to cause an exodus of your other staff members if they have even a hint of better opportunities. And if they don’t, resentment is going to fester big time :-(

      2. Electric Sheep*

        Since his performance isn’t great, maybe you need to focus more on that? Not getting tasks done would be a performance issue/potential job loss reason, so you could say he either needs to take sick leave or perform at standard. He can’t say he’s well enough to work but that you can’t punish him for not getting work done because he’s not feeling well, both at the same time.

  8. DC*

    With the extra information about his wife apparently forcing him into the office while sick, I wonder if in addition to the conversation, a formal letter is what is needed here. Maybe one copy of the letter handed to him at the meeting, and one sent to his home. Seeing something in writing can reinforce the seriousness of the situation. And showing the letter to his wife could give him “cover” with her to stay home while sick (not that I think this is ok or a healthy relationship dynamic). Obviously, run this option by HR or any union as needed.

    1. UnCivilServant*

      My hypothesis was not that the wife was forcing him to go to work in a direct manner like saying “get out that door now”, but that he might be motivated to go to work to have time away from her. I have seen the latter pattern before.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This was my thought.

        I live with my elderly parents, whose marriage has gotten tense as they both get older, achier, and harder of hearing. Work is a lot more peaceful than home.

        But I still don’t come in sick.

      2. Is this a library or a living room?*

        This was my thinking as well. I also work at a library and have an older coworker who – for whatever reason – just does not like being at home (he lives alone with several cats). It’s apparently a fight every year to get him to take his time off.

        So I can imagine how someone who doesn’t like their homelife would prefer to go to work no matter what. I’m a homebody – I’ll take his time off!

      3. doreen*

        I’ve known people who did all sort of things regarding work to spend as little time as possible at home . Everything from taking few or no days off ever to not retiring unless forced to spending four hours a day commuting when they could transfer and do the same job with the same pay 15 minutes from home.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I don’t think they should send one to his home. Brian is the employee, not his wife. In the same way his wife would be out of line for reaching out to his workplace when he’s having an issue with his boss, it would be out of line to send a letter home so that the wife could read it. If Brian chooses to share his own letter with her, that’s one thing, but going around him so you can get to the wife is very weird.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think they should send one to his home. Brian is the employee, not his wife.

        Yes, that’s very true. Sending anything to her is an overstep and is not likely to have the effect anyone wants.

      2. DC*

        In case it wasn’t clear, I did not recommend sending a letter to the wife or “going around him to get to the wife.” I was talking about a letter addressed to the employee (not the wife) sent to the employee’s home address. My workplace sometimes sends communications to my home address (addressed to me), like tax documents.
        In any event, I withdraw my original comment.

    3. Parakeet*

      I rather wonder if someone should be offering Brian the number to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I’m not going to say from here that that’s for sure what’s going on. But most of the comments I’ve seen so far, other than this one and one or two others, seem to be assuming mild marital tension. Whereas to me the description of his behavior makes it sound like he’s pretty desperate and things could really be bad.

    4. Samwise*

      So what? Seriously, so fn what?

      Whatever his relationship with his wife — which is btw speculation on the part of Brian’s coworkers— that does not give Brian the right to make his coworkers sick, cause his coworkers to use THEIR pto, and frankly endanger their health and lives as well as the health and life of the library patrons. If he needs to get out of the house, he can use his freakin PTO, of which he has plenty (per the OP), and go sit in the park or drive around aimlessly or whatever. He doesn’t have to go to work and the OP needs to (1) send him away every time he comes in sick and (2) start the wheels in motion to fire his selfish ass.

      OP, Brian is NOT a nice guy. He is selfish and self-centered and he does not care one bit if he endangers anyone.

  9. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I have just taken a local government job in the UK, one of the benefits is a long period of paid sick leave. I appreciate you are probably USA OP but I hope you have paid sick leave at least. Maybe the employee going part time is another way to limit exposure?

    1. Alexai*

      in the US, even in government, part time usually means zero benefits. He’d lose his health insurance at a minimum. :(

      1. Orv*

        In many government positions, benefits start at 50%. Not all, but it’s not uncommon.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      US government jobs are more likely to have solid benefits that private sector, in my experience. It sounds like in this case Brian has ample paid time off he could use, to the extent that he is cashing it out or even letting it expire rather than using it.

      1. JustMy2Cents*

        I work in a small rural library in the US. Whether or not your library has healthcare depends entirely on how well your library is funded. Each state has their own way of funding library services. So just because libraries are technically government entities doesn’t always mean we have unions, livable pay scales, healthcare, etc. I am fortunate that we have a very generous sick, holiday and vacation policy and I have a really great retirement plan BUT no healthcare. And I hope no one says but you can go to the exchange and get a great plan for $10.00 a month because that just isn’t true — such a national disgrace when the government can lie like that in TV commercials. Each year I go out on the exchange and in my state for a single person in their late 50s, it is $850.00 a month with a $7,000.00 deductible. So, no healthcare for me! I feel for the OP, I had an employee that just kept coming in when she was sick but if someone else was sick, she was in my office demanding that I send them home. She finally retired and my work/life balance changed for the better! OP you need to address this problem for the sake of everyone else.

  10. DaniCalifornia*

    This would be infuriating to deal with. I love Alison’s scripts and ideas to move forward within the government workings. Covid was a bit of a blessing because I got to rebuild my terrible immune system. Now coworkers are coming back into work sick since we’re all in office 5 days a week and new bouts of Covid are being passed around. Does Brian not think of anyone else? Even those with no health issues/strong immune systems don’t want to be constantly exposed let alone those who it could seriously harm!

    1. The Other Sage*

      This. I had no health issues until I caught covid. I had to be on sick leave for over a year before being able to work part time. How cases like mine or worse benefits anyone is a mystery to me.

    2. I Have RBF*

      Plus, they are finding that the more times one gets Covid, the higher the likelihood of ending up with Long Covid. So even people who are young, fit and healthy are at an increased risk for ending up with what is essentially an autoimmune disease the more times they get Covid.

  11. not nice, don't care*

    Can Brian’s coworkers gang up on him? Would a lawyer do a cease & desist order for this? If I had a coworker maliciously repeatedly endangering me, my income, my family, etc I would be happy to spend some money on whatever legal action I could take to stop the endangerment.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Why would coworkers need to use their informal pressure or a lawyer get involved when Brian’s actual manager is the one writing this letter and (presumably) has the power to make him stop?

    2. tabloidtained*

      A cease and desist is a warning to stop XYZ illegal/allegedly illegal activity or else the next step will be legal action. But you can’t take legal action against someone who shows up to work sick.

      1. Antilles*

        In terms of a formal cease and desist, sure. But you can still produce a Threatening Legal Letter even if it’s totally unenforceable. There certainly are lawyers who’ll do that and it does occasionally get results.
        That said, as FVM and EA note, there’s zero reason to bother with this when OP has actual power to deal with it. OP just needs to stop “feeling like his mom” and start acting like his boss.

        1. Orv*

          That really feels like escalating. If my coworkers started throwing threatening letters at me I’d probably quit.

          1. Random Name*

            Well, in this case, it seems like it would probably be a good thing if Brian were to quit.

        2. OP (anon library director)*

          OP/letter-writer responding — aah, Antilles, unfortunately you hit a bullseye with this comment – I DO feel like I’m having to act like his mom, and it’s driving me crazy! :) But from a serious standpoint: the legality of using my own evaluation of someone else’s health status to force them to use paid leave seems… legally questionable. I’d love it if someone could chime in with their organization’s policy (or personal experience as a supervisor) that might address this issue? From my own management experience, it’s come down to the employee receiving a fit-for-duty exam from their doctor if their health has deteriorated to the point where they are unable to reach performance expectations; it all gets wrapped up with FMLA and other protections (as it should), so it’s not simple or easy (or legal) to just unilaterally make decisions about employees’ health and leave based on my perception.

    3. EA*

      Not sure how this is relevant when the letter writer is the director and can just directly tell Brian not to come in and immediately send him home, as AAM recommends.

      1. OP (anon library director)*

        Hey there, OP/letter-writer responding: our locality’s policy manual has nothing in it to dictate fitness for duty in terms of fevers, contagious but common illnesses, etc., and I haven’t seen anyone in the comments chime in to quote any policies in their own workplaces that address this either. This isn’t like in public schools where there are guidelines in place to prevent sick kids from coming to school; I don’t have any authority (that I’ve been able to discern) to say “oh, Brian, we sent you home with a fever and vomiting yesterday, but you’ve come back today and say you don’t have a fever now and are fine to stay at work, even though you look like death warmed over and are pale as a ghost? Nope, too bad – I’m overriding you, forcing you out of the building, and you have to use paid leave.” It’s like — yes, I totally get what you’re saying EA, it’s just simple common sense for someone to stay home when they’re sick! Why on earth would someone do this to their coworkers and the public? But to me, forcing an employee to use paid leave based on my own evaluation of their personal health status is a dangerously slippery slope that should be avoided without a lot of guidance and preparation (and support from my own higher-ups).

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          OP, it might be worth asking your local public school and/or child development office for your locality what their policy is, them adapting it as a library policy for all of your staff since you work with both kids and other immune-compromised individuals. (For instance, my kids have to be fever AND symptom free (vomit or diarrhea) for 24 hours before I can send them back to school.)

          Obviously, Brian will be the easy low-hanging fruit, but this also gives you and your other employees both standing and support because it spells out a clear expectation. You’re creating this policy, based on a backbone of a locality policy, for the entire library staff. This will help your whole staff know the expectation (although most of them probably already use this or similar guidance as their internal gauge), and act accordingly.

        2. BetsCounts*

          Hi OP, would it make you feel better to send something like this to **your** supervisor and HR and say that unless you hear otherwise you are going to implement this at your library beginning (two or three weeks from whenever you send it)? This would give you the authority to send sick employees home. Obviously it would be incumbent on you to track to make sure you are not inadvertently discriminating against a particular class but it seems as though you know what you want to do, but feel uncomfortable to just start doing it?

          Library policy regarding fitness for work

          Policy Statement:
          Management reserves the right to send an employee home if, in management’s assessment, the employee is unwell and not fit for work. This policy aims to prioritize the health and well-being of both the individual employee and the broader workplace community.

          Management Assessment: Management holds the discretion to assess an employee’s health condition if there are concerns regarding their ability to effectively perform their job duties due to illness. This assessment may include consultation with the employee, observation of visible symptoms, or obtaining medical advice if necessary.
          Decision to Send Home: Based on the assessment, if management determines that an employee is too sick to work safely or efficiently, they reserve the right to send the employee home. This decision is made with the best interests of the employee, their colleagues, and the organization in mind.
          Notification Process: If an employee is deemed unfit for work and is being sent home, management will communicate this decision to the employee in a respectful and supportive manner. The employee will be informed of the reasons for the decision and any relevant next steps.
          Sick Leave and Absence Management: If an employee is sent home due to illness, they may be eligible to utilize sick leave benefits or other applicable leave policies as per the organization’s established procedures. Management will provide guidance to the employee on how to properly report their absence and access available support resources.
          Confidentiality: All information related to an employee’s health condition and the decision to send them home will be handled with utmost confidentiality and in compliance with applicable privacy laws and regulations. Only individuals directly involved in the management of the situation will be privy to such information on a need-to-know basis.
          Non-Retaliation: Employees will not face any form of retaliation or adverse treatment as a result of being sent home due to illness. We want to foster a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting illness and seeking necessary support without fear of negative repercussions.
          Compliance: All employees are expected to comply with this policy and cooperate with management’s decisions regarding their health and ability to work. Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action in accordance with the organization’s disciplinary procedures.

    4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      A cease and desist letter is not a reasonable way to deal with this issue. Also, Brian is inconsiderate and selfish, but not “malicious” unless he is purposely trying to get his co-workers sick and there is no indication of that.

  12. Ink*

    I’ve been struggling not to be a bit bugged at my grandparents for (unknowingly) spreading COVID to me and my brother while our mom’s in the middle of chemo. Suddenly the logical answer that they had no idea and it was no one’s fault is a lot easier to swallow! May we someday have a society where the Brians of the world are too heavily disincentivized to spread every passing germ to coworkers and patrons to keep turning up….

  13. Quill*

    If you need to go a level up to make sure you have backing for sending Brian and his germs home, please do remind whoever would grant you that authority how many library patrons are elderly or in contact with infants (This tends to shortcut around people’s “but there aren’t that many immunocompromised people, surely!” reactions.)

    Working with the general public you really cannot take chances on disease spread.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      And even if there aren’t that many immunocompromised people, their lives and health still matter! Like, what is leadership’s cutoff for the number of people Brian could potentially kill or incapacitate?

      (For the record, I know we’re in agreement! This is not me arguing against your comment!)

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, I figured. Sucks that our society is structured in such a way that it’s gotten away with ignoring public health for anybody except the financially secure and able-bodied for so long, and sometimes you gotta smack the decision-makers in the face with the fact that yes, real humans will be affected.

    2. MeepMeep123*

      Yes. Or caretakers for elderly parents or infants. I’m not high-risk, but I have an 85-year-old father who can die of COVID, and a child with a heart defect. I don’t go to the library, even though I love to read, because I know there is at least one Brian there who will do his best to kill my father and hospitalize my child.

      1. Gamer Girl*

        Same. I have a congenital heart defect, and the amount of times people have told me I don’t have to wear a mask because COVID is “over” is staggering. I just enjoy not having to fear I’ll be hospitalized after being in a public place.

  14. Fun Shirt Friday*

    I would also bring up the fact that the letter-writer and other coworkers have had to DRIVE HIM HOME and to the ER – multiple times! That is not okay either.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree.

      You can get sick at work and you can get very sick quickly, but most people do not allow themselves to get so sick at work that they need someone to drive them home on multiple occasions. On most of those days, he never should have come into work at all.

      1. Random Name*

        Yeah, for most people, it would be a lot to need a ride home (or to the ER!) due to illness once. I can’t imagine working with someone who has been in this situation multiple times in just a few years!

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        Agree 100%.
        Maybe just call him an ambulance every time he comes in sick going forward?
        I know that’s a bit extreme, but so is making everyone sick all the time!

        1. Panicked*

          Oh goodness, please don’t tie up very stressed and overwhelmed emergency services unless there’s an actual need.

            1. Panicked*

              I absolutely agree, but that’s not what the commented above me said. They advised to call one every time he came in sick, which is not needed and not wise.

        2. Kella*

          That’d be a ridiculous waste of medical resources and also cost Brian thousands of dollars!!!

          1. Samwise*

            Maybe he SHOULD carry some of the cost of coming to work that sick. Instead of foisting it off on his coworkers and the library patrons.

          2. Kay*

            Maybe if he had to pay for the consequences of his actions he might not be so inclined to continue with them? Every time he is sick is a bit much, but when he looks like he is going to fall over – yup!! No more paying for your employees to drive him (which I assume is being done during work hours).

    2. Laura L*

      Yeah, this is wild. If I had a colleague who came to work sick all the time and often came to work sick enough to go to the ER, I’d call and ambulance. I’m not driving them anywhere.

      1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

        ^ 100% this.
        Knowing that your coworkers will call an ambulance on you might also dissuade someone from coming to work THAT sick, for one, and for two I would hope it would encourage them to actually start caring for themselves first…

      2. Artemesia*

        no kidding — I am not sitting in a car with a guy who is this sick. During COVID I never took a cab because i figured cab drivers don’t get paid if they don’t work and they wiill be working while contagious if they can. Being in. a car with a sick person is the best way to get it.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah this is completely unacceptable, especially the coworkers since they presumably felt (or actually were) pressured to do it. If he can’t get himself home safely he needs to pay for an ambulance or stay home to begin with .

  15. Observer*

    We all know that a major reason for this is that his wife is intensely controlling, and we think he comes to work because she forces him

    How do you “know” this? Especially since you *also* say that he is “intensely protective of his leave balance, despite maxing it out“, which says that the situation is more complicated than you really have any way to judge.

    Regardless, it doesn’t really matter. It needs to stop. *Especially* if he has the capacity to work from home!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I figure that maxing it out means that he already has the maximum possible number of leave days, so this is not a case where he only has a couple days left and is saving them. He’s getting paid out by the city for leave days he has left over, or even losing the days for nothing when the city isn’t paying out for that.

      1. Observer*

        That’s what it sounds like to me as well. Which means that there is really no good reason for him not to use the time – he’s not losing any money by taking it.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Yeah, he’s missing out on extra money when the city pays out, but gets nothing otherwise and doesn’t get to enjoy the time off that’s part of his compensation package.

  16. PP*

    Is there any additional/different advice from Alison, if one views the situation as possibly also involving Brian also being in the position of being a domestically abused spouse?

    1. ferrina*

      The solution still isn’t to come to work sick.

      If the situation is so dire that he is not safe to stay at home when sick (even on boss’s orders), then he should contact a DV organization. Boss could reference the EAP if they thought that there was an issue that the EAP could provide resources for.

      BUT the person needs to be ready to leave their home situation. It often takes a long time and multiple tries before someone is ready and able to leave. This doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to let the repercussions spill into their life in the meantime. Boundaries are important (especially when people are actively getting sick!!).
      (side note- we don’t have any evidence that this is actually going on, so this is just a hypothetical.)

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        If it is the case that his wife is controlling and abusive, it could potentially help him to hear that everyone’s health matters, including his. And that everyone’s health is more important than showing up to work every day. Basically, he has value beyond being a worker bee (just like everyone else).

        To be clear, this shouldn’t be the primary goal of the conversation, and issues around his feelings of self-worth are best left to a therapist, not his boss. I’m just saying that making this boundary clear and enforcing it doesn’t just have negative potential consequences in that scenario.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          “it could potentially help him to hear that everyone’s health matters, including his.”

          I really like this language–it strikes the right note of showing concern for his welfare, and showing that his actions are harming other people.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This is a good question. There is reason to believe that Brian is in a toxic relationship and experiencing abuse from his spouse. That should be taken into account when charting a path forward.

      My view is that the reason that Brian is coming to work sick doesn’t change the fact that he’s putting too many people at risk and it has to stop. His co-workers are suffering the consequences of his decision to come in when he’s clearly sick.

      The concern about intimate partner abuse does make it extra important to approach the conversation with Brian with gentleness and understanding, even though it doesn’t mean that they’re going to let him keep showing up sick. Ask him what is behind his decision to come in when he clearly shouldn’t, because nobody wins with the status quo. Ask him to help come up with solutions, within the constraint that when he’s sick, he doesn’t have to go home, but he can’t stay there. Be prepared to give him information about resources that may be available to him if he needs.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      In that case, allowing him to expose coworkers and patrons to Covid and expecting other staff to be his personal chauffeur/ambulance are not appropriate ways for an employer to provide support.

    4. Observer*

      if one views the situation as possibly also involving Brian also being in the position of being a domestically abused spouse?

      So the first thing is that the LW and their staff need to be careful about jumping to conclusions here. As we’ve seen, people jump to conclusions about this stuff, and as often as not, they are wrong.

      If the LW does actually have any evidence that Brian is a victim of domestic abuse, they should handle it the same way as they would handle any other case of domestic abuse. And it they don’t know how they should handle that, it’s high time to talk to HR (and possibly) legal about how they can help and support all victims of domestic abuse, starting with Brian. But allowing anyone to endanger the rest of the staff by their behavior (in this case coming in sick) is *not* a reasonable way to go about it.

    5. Beth*

      Not really, I think.

      There are times where it makes sense to give extra leeway because you suspect there’s something bad happening at home. One common abuse tactic is to isolate the victim from outsiders–work can be a lifeline and a safe space to seek help from. To the extent that it’s possible, when you have reason to think a colleague is being abused, it makes sense to work around some inconveniences in order to keep them working.

      But that can’t be at the cost of others’ safety. Brian isn’t just coming in with a minor cough–he’s passed covid to his colleagues, he’s needed to be taken to the ER, it seems clear that there is no “too sick to come in” bar for him. His behavior isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s putting his colleagues and patrons at risk for serious health issues. Allowing that to continue is not a viable accommodation.

  17. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Just this week, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that COVID is an “occupational disease” that can trigger workers comp benefits. (The case in question was someone who contracted COVID at work and then died; their widow was entitled to workers comp benefits as a result.)

    I am not a lawyer so I am not offering any thoughts/opinions on application of Colorado law in general, but I do think it’s a ruling important to anyone who is sick of getting COVID at work from their coworkers. LW, statistically you’re probably not in Colorado so it may not help you much, but I wanted to share this for those who are and/or for those who were hoping for any kinds of legal precedents around COVID in the workplace.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      That’s really interesting. I’d thought that with any airborne infectious disease it was not possible to fully prove the infection source. Maybe the court used “balance of probability” rather than the usual level of proof for damages.

      1. doreen*

        It was a workers comp case and apparently used the “more likely than not ” standard. But the employer was a skilled nursing facility and that might matter – when I worked in a prison setting, TB was considered an occupational disease for workers comp purposes, but that wouldn’t have been the case if I worked in a library.

      2. Quill*

        Given that they can (both legally and scientifically) prove exposure for airborne chemicals, I’m guessing that the lawyers started there. If the victim was working in any healthcare setting / had contact with known covid positive individuals at work, the ruling probably stems from that?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          You can prove exposure, but not that the only exposure came from work, which some worker’s comp claims require.

          I had a repetitive stress injury from keyboard use that was denied workers comp because I couldn’t prove it was from the 8-hour days I spent typing on the computer for work and not for the occasional hour I spent on the computer outside of work.

    2. OP (anon library director)*

      Hi Caramel & Cheddar, OP/letter-writer responding – I am not in Colorado (other side of the country) but this is very interesting! It might sound unlikely, but often when you work with the public, you really are able to identify what/who got you sick, especially since many of us a still taking extra precautions (for example, we still have the big plexiglass barrier up at the service desk, and the library still provides masks and Clorox wipes to staff and patrons). That’s heartening to know that there is precedence regarding Covid – but horrible to know that it took someone’s death to achieve that ruling.

      Side note story-time: I worked with a woman at a different library who handled money she received from a patron who, after Librarian took the money and entered it into the cash register, said “whew, I’m glad to be outta the hospital, I’ve been in there for days with this damn staph infection and I just got out!” and Librarian realized the woman had scabs on her hands. Unfortunately, Librarian had bangs and had brushed them to the side after inputting the cash; she raced to the bathroom to wash her hands (over and over and over) but didn’t realized she’d touched her face, and she soon developed her own staph infection in the center of her forehead that left a scar. Despite eye-witness testimony from her coworkers, our director refused to allow her to apply for workers compensation for that injury. She quit very soon after that; it was just terrible.

  18. Essentially Cheesy*

    The saddest part of this is that Brian needs to get his life in order, if his wife makes him so miserable – this may be leading to an overload of stress and therefore constant illness.

    Unfortunately it’s totally unfair for him to bring his illnesses to work because of his home life. It absolutely does not need to be tolerated. I hope that the LW can manage him through this. It’s really sad that some people feel like they need to choose the lesser of the two miseries.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. I feel really bad for Brian. This situation is bad for him, too. Though my compassion for him does not mean I think it’s OK to just let him come in sick all the time because he’s dealing with a difficult situation (or several).

  19. A Simple Narwhal*

    Ugh Brian.

    It’s been probably 10 years now and I’m still mad at a coworker for coming into work looking and sounding like death. Multiple people told him to go home but he refused, claiming he didn’t want to “waste” a sick day. I ended up getting a worse version of whatever he had and was sicker than I’d been in years. At one point I ended up having to get emergency IV fluids, I was so dehydrated. It was the first year I’d actually accrued enough PTO to actually take a vacation and instead I had to burn it to cover all of my sick leave.

    What’s worse is that when I came back, the coworker fully acknowledged he gotten me sick and laughed it off, claiming he’d buy me lunch to make up for it. Not only was that a pitiful response and offer, he never actually bought me lunch!

    Stay home when you’re sick people.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! I posted earlier, but I will never forgive a certain co-worker who got me sick while we were working a conference in another city. She never apologized and I never trusted her judgement again. This was definitely over a decade ago, and if I saw her today, I would still give her the cold shoulder (better than the raging fever she gave me)

      1. OP (anon library director)*

        OP/letter-writer responding: Your comment about never trusting her judgement again is spot-on. That’s exactly how Brian’s coworkers all feel in this situation – he’s willfully endangering his colleagues and our public for his own gain. (Ah! Typing this out makes me feel terrible that this has gone on for too long; I really appreciate all the advice that’s providing me the support to take action.)

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I appreciate how active you’re being in the comments. It can be tough around here, sometimes. And often, getting the perspective of outsiders can really help one refocus on the actual issue and priorities at hand.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          And it sucks to realize that someone in your life does not care about your wellbeing.

    2. Dawn*

      When I was working retail, I had a customer come in so extremely sick I was worried she was about to collapse. She told me that she came in for “an iPhone case with some bling” before coughing directly in my face. I was absolutely miserably sick for a week afterwards and I will never forgive the extreme selfishness of that.

    3. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      Yep. I had a coworker who came in sick before Thanksgiving one year because they needed their leave to cover the holiday. Guess who spent it in bed? I came back and told said coworker about it and she was very sorry, and actually relented that it was a bad idea as several elderly relatives were sick now too. “Are they still talking to you?” I said and walked away. Because, I wasn’t…

      1. Can’t work from home without internet*

        I’m guessing the OP won’t see this, but I want to offer a reason someone might refuse to work from home. And that is their home environment might not make that possible. Shotty or non existent internet or data limits reserved for emergencies on your phone, living in an open floor plan studio style apartment with a partner who is also at home, having a small child at home you are taking care of or an elderly parent or disabled sibling or anyone who lives with you that needs constant care. I say all of this because these have been issues I’ve faced with work from home. It’s great if you want a work from home option, but it’s unrealistic to think all people have the structural ability at home to work from home. And where I live, it’s an extremely common issue. But people who have access to internet at home and live in homes with multiple rooms never once think that could be a factor in not working from home.

        1. OP (anon library director)*

          Hi there, OP/letter-writer responding: your points are all very valid and need to be considered when it seems so easy to say “just let them work from home!” I completely understand that there can be issues that prevent working from home even when it’s offered. In this case, Brian has a large house with his own office/music room (I know because he and his wife just built a new house and told everyone the details of it) and his wife works from home in her own home office for a big company that apparently requires lots of online video/Zoom meetings, so the infrastructural concerns that many people may face are not at play here. Their only child is out of the area at college and they don’t provide care for anyone inside the home. Also, we’re in a small city with fiber internet etc. etc., so we don’t face the connectivity issues folks in more rural place might experience.

          1. Tea*

            Yeah, I think we can ease off on the “but what about Totally Random Reason Excuse for Why Brian is Endangering Everyone!” scenarios because this reveal about his home and home-office setup (and that he and his wife have no small children or elderly relatives to care for at home) is not surprising.

            Sometimes people are just self-involved, selfish ass-hats. Unfortunately the OP has one on their team and it’s a sort-of govt job :-/

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Also, none of these considerations make it OK for Brian to keep showing up sick and endangering everyone else. They certainly affect the possible solutions that are workable, but the bottom line remains that Brian has to stop coming in sick.

          2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Not that it really matters, I’m curious whether the shift you describe in Brian happened around the same time as the child left for college. Could that have some influence somehow? This is only relevant to the “why is he doing this?” question and doesn’t really change anything with how you should approach things.

      2. The Voice of Reason*

        Yep. I had a coworker who came in sick before Thanksgiving one year because they needed their leave to cover the holiday.

        Again, unlimited PTO solves this problem.

  20. Journey of man*

    Maybe OP can contact someone at the city attorney’s office (corporation counsel) who would draft a letter addressed to this employee.
    A little scare tactic to have him cease and desist infecting others might work.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Or maybe OP can …. manage him … since OP is his manager.

    2. The Voice of Reason*

      Maybe OP can contact someone at the city attorney’s office (corporation counsel) who would draft a letter addressed to this employee.

      Why on earth would the city attorney’s office get involved in this case? What statute is he violating?

  21. CraigT*

    You’re his boss. For god’s sake, act like it. Send him home when he’s sick, tell him he cannot come back any time he has symptoms that might be contagious. Then enforce it. Document everything, and establish a paper trail. If he wants to file an HR complaint, and they are not reasonable, hit back hard. You, and every coworker who has complained about him, should fire right back and file your own complaint about his actions. Personally, if the HR rep is anything but supportive, I’d push back with a complaint against that person. They hate that. Too many of them worry only about silencing the squeaky wheel, and involve themselves in issues the on the spot manager should be handling.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I think this comment is a little harsh. I agree that the LW needs to set a new rule and stick to it. But you’re being unnecessarily unkind here.

      We are currently living in a society where the messaging from governments and public health is “you do you.” It’s all focused on telling people to do their own individual risk assessments, which don’t involve considering the effect of our risk decisions on anyone else. We’ve seen letters on here about people whose management won’t do anything when people come in super sick and infect others. Or managers who bring their sick children to work and let them run around everywhere.

      I get why the LW isn’t sure about what kind of authority they have to put a stop to this or what they can do. Particularly since they won’t always be there to enforce whatever rule gets imposed; someone else on staff is going to have to do it.

  22. WantonSeedStitch*

    UGH. I have a friend who’s a cancer patient on chemo and whose husband had been working remotely, but was made to go back to a hybrid schedule in spite of the fact that he lived with someone with a severely reduced immune system. Someone came to the office with Covid, he caught it, then his wife caught it, and now long Covid is complicating her already poor health. No one needs a Brian.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I hate every part of this. Including that the employer’s reaction to all of this was probably just [insert shrug emoji].

  23. EA*

    AAM’s advice is spot on. You need to be direct and tell him to stay/go home immediately if he’s sick. As the director, this is on you! You’re his boss. And don’t wait until he needs to be driven home – stop driving him home altogether. If he has to find other transportation home then so be it, he’s not supposed to come in sick.

    I’d also suggest eliminating the talk about Brian’s controlling wife behind his back with your coworkers; joking about insurance payouts seems pretty mean-spirited, even if it has a grain of truth.

    1. Ama*

      I would also recommend coming up with a plan for the days OP is not in the office — deputize someone to tell Brian to go home if he comes in sick, or if that isn’t possible, if there’s some way employees can contact OP and then OP can tell Brian he has to go home.

      But the number one thing is to sit Brian down and tell him “you can’t come into the office sick any longer and not only am I not going to allow it, if you come in sick on a day I’m not here [outline whatever the backup plan is].”

    2. Observer*

      I’d also suggest eliminating the talk about Brian’s controlling wife behind his back with your coworkers; joking about insurance payouts seems pretty mean-spirited, even if it has a grain of truth.

      Yes. But not only mean spirited. This is the kind of thing that *absolutely* leads to a toxic workplace.

      LW, you have a genuine problem. And if people have actual concerns about Brian’s home life, figure out what you can fo for him (EAP? Whatever), and end te discussion there. Gossip of this sort is not healthy. And the fact that it’s spilling over into this is not helping him at all.

  24. Anon in Canada*

    You can’t blame people for coming into work sick when not coming to work means having to choose between buying food and paying rent.

    We don’t know how many sick days this workplace offers a year, but if the number is too low, the employer has no leverage to prevent people from coming to work sick. Same if there is a risk of being fired for missing work due to illness (I’ve worked at such a company before).

    1. ferrina*

      This isn’t the case with this letter.
      The LW says that Brian has a surplus of days off. He doesn’t take days off and so he actually loses PTO because he doesn’t take it.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        The LW says “sick leave balance” so it seems like sick leave is separate from vacation. Which is good. LW could simply forcibly send Brian home with pay.

        It would get trickier if the organization used combined PTO, as people in such workplaces come to work sick to save PTO for vacation. People coming to work sick is a feature, bot a bug, of combined PTO. But it doesn’t seem to be the case here.

      2. Dris*

        Doesn’t it say he’s banking his time to sell it back? I tend to think that represents economic anxiety rather than just eccentricity around PTO hoarding. Librarians aren’t known for being well-paid, at least in my area. He may rely on selling back his time off to make ends meet.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          LW said “sick leave”, not PTO, and I don’t think you can “sell back” sick leave. Unlike vacation time or combined PTO, which is intended to be used in full, sick days are a form of insurance that (in theory) you only use if you need it, and don’t get if you didn’t need it.

          All of these are reasons why combined PTO is awful, but this is getting off-topic.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            The rules in this workplace (in the US) might be different from where you are (about selling back sick leave).

        2. Observer*

          Doesn’t it say he’s banking his time to sell it back?

          Halfway – sometimes he just loses the time.

      3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        Besides the fact that OP has offered a work from home option. Our office is really strict about not coming to work sick. (our office internal policy, not necessarily that of corporate)

        Heck I didn’t come to work for the 10 days my husband was testing positive for COVID despite him isolating in his room and us both masking every time he left the room and me being completely asymptomatic and testing every other day. I worked from home the entire time and used no PTO. When I had the flu I used 2 days of PTO and then worked from home for 3 more with an extended nap lunch.

    2. UnCivilServant*

      In this case, the employee keeps tripping over the ‘lose it’ half of ‘use it or lose it’ on PTO, so the question of going unpaid isn’t at play yet.

  25. Hendry*

    This is serious – peoples’ health is at risk. Brian needs a “come to Jesus” talk about this and if he continues to come in sick you need to let him go imo.

  26. Chairman of the Bored*

    The pandemic isn’t “over” so much as it was “cancelled due to lack of interest”.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Pretty much. TBH, it’s a real relief to see Alison and so many commenters saying that they know things are still bad and that we owe it to each other to do what we can to prevent the spread of contagious illness. Because a truly disturbing number of people don’t agree with one or both of those things.

    2. Observer*

      The thing is that it’s not even really relevant. Because this is a problem regardless of what he’s bringing into the office. Some people get REALLY sick from the flu, and strep is no joke either. Especially when you are talking about immunocompromised people. And those are just two of the most common airborne illnesses. They are not the only ones by a long shot.

      1. AnonORama*

        Agree 100%. Please don’t bring any of your nasty-ass germs into the office!! If I had a dollar for every time over the past 4 years that I’ve seen a sick-as-a-dog person in the office (or heard someone coughing up a lung) who then reassured everyone “it’s not Covid!” I could retire. My absolute favorite was “My brother had the flu when I saw him last weekend and I don’t feel great, but I didn’t want to miss this meeting. And I tested negative for Covid.” And who can forget the timeless AAM story about the person who gave her entire office norovirus?

      2. Cormorant*

        Yep. I’ve been sick for two months now, because my daughter keeps bringing home new colds from school to give me. Not covid, not flu, just regular old colds, but I ended up with pneumonia after the second one hit me! I caught a third one two weeks ago and at this point I’m just crossing my fingers that my bruised ribs are healed by summer.

    3. Emily Byrd Starr*

      No, the pandemic is over but COVID is still around. It’s just no longer severe enough to be considered a pandemic.

      1. goddess21*

        not even close to true. it is still a pandemic. read a book or the wiki entry if that’s more your speed.

        1. The Voice of Reason*

          The World Health Organization (WHO) disagrees with you. It declared the public health emergency over in early 2023. But by all means, superimpose your judgment over that of real scientists.

          1. Alice*

            Dear the voice of reason:
            Maria Van Kerkhove, of the WHO’s Department of Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention, said this in February 2024:
            “COVID’s not in the news every day, but it’s still a global health risk. If we look at wastewater estimates, the actual circulation [of SARS-CoV-2] is somewhere between two and 20 times higher than what’s actually being reported by countries. The virus is rampant. We’re still in a pandemic. There’s a lot of complacency at the individual level, and more concerning to me is that at the government level.”

    4. The Voice of Reason*

      Disagreed strongly. There is widespread immunity to Covid-19, and the risk profile of the virus is vastly, vastly different than in approximately 2020-2022.

  27. Dawn*

    If it helps move the needle for you at all, if you were my manager and were just allowing this to happen, I’d quit. I probably wouldn’t even give you notice. “I’m forced to work with someone who keeps coming to work with COVID” isn’t an acceptable workplace for me.

  28. Infectious Disease Epi*

    Masking while sick can also help reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses. It’s unlikely people will be 100% symptom free when they come back after an illness (even non-COVID coughs can linger), so if possible, I’d set a rule that anyone coming to work with cold symptoms wears a mask (surgical or (K)N-95) whenever not eating & drinking, and make sure there are free surgical masks available for staff and patrons. I’d also look into increasing air filtration and circulation, especially during cold season, if possible.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This is great, though I’d set my minimum bar at (K)N95, rather than surgical. Ideally, the organization would provide them, since I know this can get expensive.

    2. Bi One Get One*

      Some states like mine actually forbid employers from making masks mandatory. (sigh) Definitely check your local laws before requiring masks.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Are those bans on mask requirements across the board, or are there exceptions for ‘showing symptoms of respiratory disease’?

  29. BellyButton*

    the only thing I miss about my last company is it was Asian owned and it was understood that we wore masks when we were sick or people around us were sick and no handshaking. I worked there 7 years and I didn’t get so much as a cold in all that time. I was sick back to back from October 2023 to March 2024. It was horrible.

  30. Dris*

    Often times when people complain (understandably) about people coming to work sick, there really seems to be a reticence to address it as a structural workplace issue rather than an individual one.

    For one thing, it sounds like Brian has a disability impacting his susceptibility to illness. What accommodations have been offered? Does he know about all his leave options? Has HR offered to work with him on this? Does he have enough staff support to take the time off he needs without things backing up unsustainably? Does the workplace infrastructure provide for him to be able to work from home?

    On an individual level though, the comment about his wife is very concerning. Is he safe at home? Too often when victims of DV are men it isn’t taken seriously. If the genders were swapped, would you feel differently about his situation and motivations for coming to work (escaping from home) while ill? If so, that should tell you something important OP.

    1. Kella*

      While typically, I’d agree, OP gives information to make it pretty clear that this is not a structural issue or lack of accommodations. OP says “He is also intensely protective of his leave balance, despite maxing it out and selling time back to the city if/when vacation buyback is offered (if it’s not offering, he just loses it).” Meaning, on a regular basis, he has PTO that is going un-used for so long, he loses it. This is not an issue due to lack of leave. OP also says that they have offered Brian to work from home and he always refuses this offer.

      It doesn’t sound to me like OP isn’t taking the potential abusive home situation seriously. Speaking as a DV survivor, even if that is the primary cause, that doesn’t change the fact that Brian is endangering his coworkers by coming to work sick and contagious. Letting him continue to do that isn’t the solution.

      1. Dris*

        So I asked the questions with an open mind, and in order to prompt OP to think about it, because I actually work in a library. He’s banking his PTO to sell it back when he can, and that at least suggests the possibility that there’s an economic issue here. Regarding offering WFH, offering is not enough; I technically *can* WFH, in that I have permission, but most of the time in practice I have to come in because we don’t have many systems in place to support the work I do being handled remotely. This is something that always seems to be forgotten by my supervisors despite them being more than willing to have me WFH, which is why I brought this up.

        I’m also a DV survivor, so all I can say is DV can be a different experience for everyone, and we shouldn’t assume our individual experiences represent the absolute limit of what DV can look like, especially when people not typically recognized as victims are involved. I certainly agree that this doesn’t change the fact that Brian needs to not continue to come in sick – I hope me suggesting structural solutions to this issue is not being read as me *not* wanting to solve the problem, or denying the problem exists. But I do think the DV possibility needs to be compassionately looked into regardless, as a matter of due diligence and a standard level of care that should always be extended to employees.

        1. Hendry*

          At what point is that overstepping though? I don’t know that LW should be getting into the details of Brian’s marriage, though if there’s abuse happening of course it’s a huge concern.

          What is considered an appropriate response by the employer in this situation?

          1. Dris*

            I think Allison has given really good advice in the past for offering help to an employee sensitively when DV is suspected. Personally I think just letting all staff know that resources are available such as EAPs and such is a good first step., which doesn’t require inserting oneself into anyone’s marriage. And generally just letting staff know that they won’t be judged or ignored if they are having this kind of issue. That’s definitely not something employees can safely assume about their workplace, so it needs to be made explicit as just a general best practice.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I did not read your comment as meaning you thought that the problem didn’t exist or was insignificant in the larger context :)

          DV is a serious issue and it sounds like there are reasons in this situation to be concerned.

      2. Dris*

        Oh gosh I’m sorry, I totally misread your last paragraph, so please disregard the last part of mine. Ironically enough I have a bit of COVID brain at the moment lol

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      All great questions, Dris. I assume that people who come in to work while looking like death warmed over are doing this for a reason. It’s generally best to have a solution that takes into account what the reason is. Otherwise, you’re not that likely to be successful.

      The LW definitely should think about accommodations and things to prepare for the conversation. But it’s also on Brian to ask for stuff like accommodations. At this point, it sounds like he doesn’t think there’s a problem and is fine with the status quo. So the first thing is telling him that there is a problem. Then yes, try to work collaboratively with Brian to find a solution that he can do that also does not involve him coming into work knowingly sick.

  31. Hyaline*

    I am going to throw Brian a little bit of sympathy based on the letter writer’s statement that he has “myriad health problems.” Navigating chronic health issues can throw a real monkey wrench into the basic equations of “do I feel well enough to go to work” because the answer is nearly ALWAYS “no” so deciding when to call it isn’t so simple. (Like–during the COVID era I got a little annoyed by the “If you don’t feel well, don’t come in!” signs on doors. I have chronic pain. I never feel “well.” I know I’m not who you’re talking to, COVID sign, but still–thanks for reminding me I have a terrible baseline for my own wellness!) Maybe he’s not great at recalibrating those calculations to consider his personal health situation, so maybe the LW here can see some opportunity in setting clear expectations about when he’s expected to stay home and when it’s up to him. I would see value in framing it as “if it’s about INFECTIOUS DISEASE it’s no longer about you but keeping others well, so stay home” and “if it’s about YOU FEELING CRUMMY it’s your call.” The policies/guidelines could even be framed as workplace guidelines (even though we all know it’s for Brian, but still)–it might sound a little daycare-policy-ish, but “Fever-free for 24 hours,” or “You’re most contagious within the first few days of having a cold, so do not return to work during the first 48 hours of experiencing cold or flu symptoms,” or “If you’ve barfed in the past 24 hours, we don’t want you here.” There’s plenty of basic guidelines out there if you wanted to riff off them or cite them in your own policies (and as a librarian, he might appreciate the use of reference materials!).

    And 100% this conversation needs to come with a flexible sick leave and/or work from home policy, which it sounds like the LW is on top of, because it’s ridiculous to expect people to stay home from work every time they’re ill when they get minimum sick time.

    1. EchoGirl*

      Agreed on the first point, I definitely had some similar annoyances — not only the general concept, but some of the symptoms I was supposed to be “watching out for” are things I had to deal with regularly long before 2020 (for example, fatigue — I have sleep issues and insomnia, fatigue is a regular issue for me). I did understand on an intellectual level that what I needed to do was compare to my own baseline, but on a gut level, not only did it increase my already-high anxiety, but it also made it pretty clear that the guidelines weren’t really taking into account the existence of, well, people like me. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s playing a part.

      That said, Brian coming in after testing positive for COVID doesn’t really fit that pattern because it’s no longer just a question of “pushing through feeling bad”; now you have proof staring you in the face that you’re contagious. It could still have its roots in that idea, but when it’s gotten to the point that you’re blowing past a clear danger sign, it’s at the very least grown beyond that.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      I wish there were policies for adults like the daycares have. Mostly just because of my personality, but aalso because of the borderline issues mentioned, like is it a virus or allergies? Still, I wouldn’t want to have to stay home the next day when I know the vomiting was a migraine I misjudged in severity or didn’t treat in time.

  32. Walter*

    You tell him once, and if he disobeys after that, you terminate on the spot for gross insubordination. Solved.

    1. Bast*

      If there’s a union, it may not be so simple to just fire him. Not sure where OP lives, but most (public) libraries around my area are part of their respective City/Town union. It takes a LOT to get fired.

      1. Walter*

        There’ll be a carve-out for gross insub. Might have to pay him garden leave while the process runs, but you can absolutely ban him from the premises.

        And this is one of the many reasons unions need to go.

        1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          Unions protect workers from bosses and business owners, especially ones who are overtly anti-union.

          1. Walter*

            I anti-union interference in areas that don’t concern them. Firing someone for gross insub, for endangering life safety of others? Not the union’s business.

            1. Hyaline*

              You…don’t get to decide that, though? The LW may well have to navigate policies, union regs, or other obstacles we may or may not agree with, but they are “the facts of the case” so to speak.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        There is no union in this particular workplace. OP has been posting in the comments!

      1. Walter*

        You absolutely can, when they’re disobeying a direct instruction not to under the circumstances.

        1. The Voice of Reason*

          Except if the instruction is “don’t come to work” because you’re suffering from symptoms of a disability (e.g., chronic dizziness, as OP suggested above), then the instruction is illegal where the employer must offer reasonable accommodations.

          1. Walter*

            It is not “reasonable” to allow you to come in and get others sick, no matter what your problems are. It would be reasonable to offer remote work, but that doesn’t sound like an option, and he has said he just goes to sleep if he goes home, so he’s already demonstrated he isn’t fit for duty.

            So yeah, you absolutely can require the stay at home, and disobeyal is a termination offense.

  33. The Other Sage*

    Thank you so much OP for taking spreading viruses in the workplace seriously!

    You also mentioned his wife being controlling. Maybe I’m out of line, but would it be an option to offer him help about that? I know there are organisations out there with the goal to help male victims of domestic violence, and from what you say maybe he could need their help.

  34. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Do not ignore this, especially in a public facing setting. We have a local business that had people coming in to work knowing they were sick and infecting those coworkers. One young man who did not know his coworker was sick went to a family gathering before becoming symptomatic and it ended up killing his grandmother.

  35. Kate*

    As someone who is currently home sick due to 75% of our sister team coming into work sick, I feel this so hard.

    Great that Brian is so protective of HIS leave balances, too bad he isn’t so protective of everyone else’s. Basically their leave balances bear the brunt of his selfish choices.

    This goes double for the employees who are immunocompromised or otherwise disabled— we already bear the reputational brunt of being sick a lot (“is she really reliable?”, “do you think he can really handle the project?”) — thanks for downloading those liabilities on to us, Brian!

    1. Kate*

      Now that I have taken an extra moment to think about this, I might be able to frame it in a better way:

      If Brian were dumping all of his WORK on to his colleagues, overloading them and forcing them to drop tools on their own files, it would explicitly be a work-performance conversation: “Brian, Cassandra and Tonya can’t keep taking on your work, it’s putting their own performance at risk.”

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      God, thank you! Brian sure doesn’t seem to mind burning all his coworkers’ PTO/sick days, does he?

    3. tabloidtainted*

      It sounds like Brian has chronic health issues that would make him the target of the same reputational issues you mention—and fear of that may be what he’s reacting to here.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Maybe, but he can’t offload that onto others. He’s being irresponsible, and it’s harming other peoples’ health. His struggles are understandable, but his behaviors are not okay.

  36. Anon for this*

    LW, you’re in a position to do something about this. Please use your authority. I get that you’re trying to be fair and kind, but Brian coming to work to get away from his home life, if he is, isn’t a problem within your scope to influence whereas ensuring your other staff and patrons don’t get sick very much is.

    I do sympathise as I’ve managed people who worked very long hours to avoid home life and it can be difficult to insist that they leave. But in this case you really need to spell it out to Brian and enforce consequences. I caught COVID from a colleague like him, and I’m still very salty about it (and with the entire let’s just sneeze on each other with abandon culture, but that’s not LWs fault).

  37. Blue Pen*

    I think Alison is right on about this. Brian seems to have a warped understanding of what it means to be a good employee. It’s not this. I think the only way he’ll understand is if there are penalties for this behavior—similar to any other workplace violation. These are the guardrails employers need to implement, for management to enforce and uphold. Not “teehee, you’re sick, but thanks for still coming in, because it shows you’re a dedicated worker.”

    1. AnonORama*

      This 100%. Management can shut this down, encourage it, or do nothing, which serves to encourage it.

  38. Rachel morgan*

    As a fellow library director of a mid-sized public library, send him home. Every time. Enforce it like Allison says.

    Start writing him up, document, document, document. If he keeps breaking through, terminate him. He’s putting you, your staff, and employees in danger repeatedly.

    Generally, at a public library, Director has their hands on the reins. Especially in a medium-small size. Only people above us are generally the board of trustees, and they “just” pass the policies, handle finances etc. The Director runs the library, including hiring/firing/writing up employees. In most mid-small public libraries, there is NO HR department. It’s usually the Director, and possibly the assistant director.

    This SHOULD all be up to you, as the Director.

    1. OP (anon library director)*

      Hey Rachel Morgan – OP responding! Do you have any policies in place that can dictate/support this? I’m very wary of using my personal evaluation of his health status; FMLA is involved here, and while we do have a locality-wide HR department, they’re not very engaged or responsive. I would absolutely NOT have the authority to fire him based on what’s happened, especially since FMLA is involved – as another commenter mentioned, he has myriad health issues going on, so sometimes when he looks very ill it’s because of that, and apparently this last time he was very ill it was because he had Covid. Unfortunately, when someone refuses to disclose symptoms (or outright hides them), that makes for a very bizarre situation! I’m really appreciating all the comments with advice and support.

      1. Yes Anastasia*

        I am not the previous commenter, but the fact that he is sometimes sick due to non-contagious causes makes this tough. I don’t think FMLA should be the problem per se – you’re clearly not threatening his job FOR taking leave! – but I get that you can’t tell him to go home if he’s non-contagious and performing the job adequately.

        I’m wondering if you can institute other behavioral directives, like:
        -If you’re persistently coughing/sneezing, you have to mask and social distance. You are reassigned to off-desk work or wfh. (Complete aside from whether he’s contagious, respiratory symptoms are super distracting in a library!)
        -If your job performance is suffering, wherever the cause, you have go home.

        All that assumes you live in a state where mask mandates is legal and your HR gives you latitude to manage your employees’ behavior. Ianal, but as long as you emphasize that you are setting behavioral expectations around disruptive symptoms and job performance, NOT discriminating against him due to a specific diagnosis, then I don’t see this being, for instance, an ADA violation.

      2. JM60*

        I’m not a lawyer, but I’m 100% sure that FMLA doesn’t protect someone for being fired for refusing to stay home when sick (or have the symptoms of a contagious illness).

        1. The Voice of Reason*

          It absolutely does if the sickness is a disability, or due to disability, and is non-contagious; in that case, you have to provide reasonable accommodations at the workplace, not dismiss the employee.

          1. Beth*

            The reasonable accommodation here is “use PTO to get paid while not coming into work”. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure FMLA doesn’t protect someone from getting fired when the business has reasonable accommodations in place, the employee refuses to use them, and their work suffers as a result.

      3. Rachel Morgan*

        I don’t, but I do highly suggest working with an employment lawyer (I am right now). FMLA and other state specific policies are Hella tricky to navigate. I must have missed that FMLA plays a roll with him.

  39. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Brian’s a selfish sod.
    He can destroy his own health if he chooses, but he is also damaging the health of coworkers and removing their choice.

    Since he seems to regard money more highly than health, have you explained to him that his saving up his leave to sell is costing several other people their own leave?

    1. Mining mishaps*

      Maybe he’s not selfish. Maybe he’s been trained by decades of working in late stage capitalism that most employers will only value him when he’s producing, and he’s doing everything he can to maintain that.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        The blame is his, as is the responsibility for his own behaviour.
        We shouldn’t just let people off harming their coworkers with a wave of “oh, cos capitalism”

        His coworkers don’t do this. The OP has repeatedly told him not to come in sick but he’s ignoring her.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        In comments, the OP has described Brian as getting belligerent when the topic of protecting other people’s health has come up recently. She has tried talking to him. I get that it can be hard to break through all the programming of capitalism, but at this stage, his outright refusal to think about other people is selfish.

  40. Bruce*

    Back in the 80s I came to work sick, had a long meeting with 3 other people and gave all of them the flu… at least that is what they thought! One of them was an executive, he told me off when he recovered and came back in. The work culture there was very hard-core, but he was one of the more reasonable execs so I took the lesson to heart!

  41. Immuno Wise*

    I became immuno compromised after having COVID. My department manager lets people come to work sick all the time and doesn’t say much. I spoke to him about how others sickness could affect me. Crickets. So I went to HR and informed them that I was going to keep a supply of masks in my desk for me to wear when others came in sick. They weren’t to thrilled but allowed it.

    The first time I pulled out a mask my manager went berserk. I simply stated that since he wouldn’t enforce making sick coworkers go home I had spoken to HR and they agreed to the mask for my protection. He still didn’t like it, tried to tell me immuno compromised was all in my head… but every time someone comes in sick I pull out a mask and I wear it.i also don’t get into discussions/debates about why I do it.

  42. All het up about it*

    This is so mind boggling to me. I know it. I see it, but the GUILT. Why do people not feel guilt about getting other sick. My partner got what we thought was food poisoning and I was at work two and a half days later and was suddenly struck down making it quite apparent it was not food poisoning. If I had known, I wouldn’t had been there and I felt so worried that I might have gotten others sick. I didn’t thankfully (I was literally Clorox wiping my way out of the building.) But to just not CARE? It’s wild to me.

    1. AnonORama*

      He’s either not thinking about it that way, or any concern or guilt he feels is outstripped by his fear of losing his job/leave. (And, in this particular case, perhaps fear of defying and/or being stuck at home with an abusive spouse.) Selfish? Sure. But many human thought processes are.

      (I’m 100% not defending him, but I can see where the thought process could come from.)

    2. tabloidtainted*

      Because it’s not part of most cultures to feel guilty about passing around illnesses. COVID is new. Work culture, specifically, has been extremely pro-working while sick for the entirety of most people’s lives. A few years isn’t going to change that conditioning.

      1. metadata minion*

        “Because it’s not part of most cultures to feel guilty about passing around illnesses.”

        What are you basing that on? I know plenty of people, including myself, who feel bad when we make other people sick, and this substantially predates COVID.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Some people just prioritise what they want without caring or considering the effect on others, i.e. selfish, self-centred and callous.

  43. Managing While Female*

    “I’ve tried to get him to work from home when he’s unwell and he refuses, saying if he goes home he’ll just go to bed”

    Yeah, Brian! That’s what a sick day IS, dude!

  44. Cardboard Marmalade*

    While obviously Brian needs to change his behavior or have it be changed for him, it seems to me that an obvious temporary step for all his coworkers to take would be to mask up at work if they’re not already? As a former library worker who was constantly getting such from patrons pre-COVID, I would never work at one now without a mask, personally.

  45. Introvert girl*

    I had a friend who beat cancer in 2021, but died of covid due to having an immunocompromised system. Dear OP, this situation is so extremely dangerous it could have serious legal repercussions if you willingly let him keep on coming in sick and god forbid your employee who just finished their cancer treatment actually dies.

  46. Mining mishaps*

    I feel for Brian. As someone else who struggles with a myriad of health issues as well as a compromised immune system, I see the conflict.

    You only have so many sick days and leave days. And if you’ve got chronic illnesses that might need surgery or sudden care/time off, you’re loathe to use up your leave if you think you can suffer through.

    And let’s be honest, the message since the 80s, at least in America, has been production over everything. If you’re not generating money, you’re not worth anything (look at people screaming about desperately needed aid programs because someone who’s not working might get something). And when sick time creeps up, you find y

    1. Mining mishaps*

      You find yourself on the chopping block more frequently.

      For those who say if it’s so troublesome, apply for SSI, etc… that’s a long road that takes a lot of time. And the recipients of such aid are rarely treated with dignity.

      (Apparently submitted too soon)

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      According to the Op, he has plenty of sick leave, but he wants to save it to sell.
      Sometimes it really is the fault of the individual, not the system.

  47. Polly Hedron*

    The only person he’ll listen to is me when I tell him he has to go home, but I’m not always in the building to enforce this.

    Then, whenever you leave the building, designate a like-minded acting director to document and enforce this.

  48. No Egrets*

    I think it’s also important to ensure that you’re removing barriers that make it hard for employees to use their sick leave. It doesn’t sound like this is the case with Brian, but I know a lot of library workers struggle with some aspects of these questions, so they’re also things to keep in mind:

    1) Is your library adequately staffed? Do staff have to worry about the library closing for the day or over lunch if they call out sick? Do higher-level managers have known biases against employees who use their sick time (especially if/when it results in scrambling for substitute coverage)?

    2) Are there any programs or services that only one staff member offers (ie senior tech help, specialized reference, story time, etc)? Is there a system in place to help minimize patron impact if a staff member is out for the day? Working with staff members to ensure that another library worker can cover these programs/services in a pinch may help alleviate staff members who feel like they “can’t” call in sick.

    3) Does your institution or municipality have overly strict policies around use of sick leave? For instance, limiting the number of times sick leave can used in a year, requiring doctor’s notes, other methods that might cause employees to overthink using their sick leave? Is there a monetary incentive for employees to minimize usage of sick leave, like sick leave buyback? Any of these practices can discourage employees from using their leave when sick as they should be able to.

    Obviously, no one should come to work when they’re contagious or when they’re sick and I hope they don’t. But I do think it also helps to consider what sort of workplace culture and policies exist as well.

  49. FunkyMunky*

    you should all be masking at the very least (looking at the long COVID person specifically and Cancer patient), and specifically being careful around this guy
    other than firing him, if he doesn’t stop doing this, I don’t se much of a solution

    and this is why I will WFH forever at this point!

  50. JM60*

    IMO, knowingly endangering others like this is a serious safety issue that should be a firable offense.

    It’s one thing if someone was coming to work sick because they couldn’t afford to lose income, but it sounds like he was given the option to be paid to work from home and that he likely had paid sick leave available. It would also be one thing if this was just a borderline case of being sick (e.g., someone thought their slightly scratchier than usual throat was seasonal allergies, but later realized that it was COVID), but it doesn’t sound like that often isn’t the case for this person.

    If I was his boss, I’d have a very frank and clear discussion with him that he can’t keep doing this, then fire him if it’s clear that he’s disregarding that.

  51. ivy*

    If you would like to stock certified high quality KN95/KF94s, Planet Halo Health is super inexpensive especially in bulk with lots of varieties. It sounds like OP’s workplace might be appreciative of having them available. And omg, coworkers coming in sick are such an issue for me, I would so appreciate a manager who actually did something.

  52. BeeCees*

    “[D]riving him into an early grave” is not a joke! At one of my former workplaces, a super loyal employees never took time off to save up for a month-long stay “back home”. He died after a short stay in the hospital. His wife could not get the life insurance money because he refused to seek help for a known, highly treatable medical condition.

    Then the workplace changed the vacation policy. The unused days no longer roll over to the next year. In addition, we could not get money out of the unused vacation days and sick days.

  53. Anon With chronic illness*

    I feel lousy 100% of the time. I am in pain 100% of the time. I have allergies and asthma so I cough constantly regardless of the state of my health. I have a myriad of medical appointments I need to keep, most of which must happen during working hours. I am medically unable to drive so I take public transit to appointments.

    I was not allowed to stay home from school when I was sick as a kid and if I had been I would have never attended enough days to meet legal requirements to pass to the next grade. Not once. I have never had a job that allowed enough time off to actually take sick time for illness rather than just dr appointments (even when I’ve technically had unlimited time off), and I’ve often made up time on weekends to keep within my time off allotments.

    I have worked 100% remotely or close to it since about 2016 and hybrid since the 90s. Most places I’ve worked had open offices (a few had cubes and two employers had actual offices, one shared and one solo, both more than 20 years ago). Every open office environment I’ve worked in was an illness incubator, even if people didn’t come in sick. People have kids. Kids breed germs. Their parents bring them to the office even if none of those people are actively ill. If you’re going to be around people you’re going to be around germs. People will get sick. People will go to work sick because they don’t know they’re sick yet. People will go to work sick because they have to work a certain percentage of the time if they want to retain their job. People will go to work sick because they’re under pressure to meet specific deadlines. People will go to work sick because there’s no coverage so if they don’t go to work sick they have to kill themselves to get stuff done while still not being 100%. People go to work sick for all sorts of reasonable reasons.

    The only way to avoid sick people is to avoid people.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I agree that being around people incurs the risk of getting a contagious disease. However, that doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and say, “Welp, nothing we can do!” There’s no actionable advice for OP.

      We can take steps to reduce risk. One of those is encouraging people with communicable diseases to stay home. Another is to create a culture of masking and taking other precautions when you’re sick. Currently, Brian is endangering his coworkers and the general public with his actions. His behaviors need to change.

    2. MeepMeep123*

      Not everyone can be that blithe about “people have germs”. Some people are immunocompromised, or old, or very young, or disabled. They do not deserve to die, and we should not be blithely accepting their deaths as a necessary consequence of our continuing to pretend that spreading disease is no big deal.

      And while libraries are optional (I haven’t been inside a library since 2020), workplaces are not. Are you seriously suggesting that a seriously immunocompromised person should accept the risk of death as a normal condition of employment? What should such a person do?

      You’re making a great argument for mask mandates in the workplace. At this point, the thing I’d do if I were Brian’s boss is to require him to wear an N95 at all times while in the office, and to strongly encourage the high-risk coworkers to wear those as well. Masks work amazingly well to keep disease away, and it sounds like that’s the only thing that can actually be done here.

    3. Beth*

      That’s true, but there are still levels of risk. “I’m around humans and humans are sometimes sick, but I have no reason to think anyone around me is sick/contagious” is one level. “Fergus has an elementary school kid, and I know flu is going around the schools; Fergus doesn’t look or sound sick, but you never know” is a level up. “Sarah has a cold, it doesn’t seem serious and god knows none of us have enough sick leave to stay home every time we’re a little sniffly, but she’s probably contagious” is another level up. All of those are normal in public spaces, including work.

      “Brian routinely comes in while testing positive for covid, sick enough to need a ride to the ER, etc” is a different tier than that. It’s not a normal tier for work, or any other public space. There is a social expectation that when people are seriously ill, they should stay home or go to the hospital. The line for ‘serious’ varies (like you said, there are all sorts of reasonable reasons that people push it) but what Brian is doing is pretty firmly on the far side of it.

  54. Knittercubed*

    One of the norms that was really infuriating about the nursing world was the expectation that you never call in sick no matter what. I had coworkers show up with pneumonia, whooping cough, in labor and with what was later to be found to be broken bones. The peer pressure was pretty intense most clinical jobs I had.

  55. Jess B*

    OP, I can see that you’ve posted comments about staff being fit for work, and asked people to share their organisation’s policy that might address this.

    I work at a university in Australia, and this advice is on our website:
    “Please DO NOT COME TO CAMPUS if you are unwell with any of the following symptoms, however mild: fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss or change in sense of taste or smell – even if you have a negative rapid antigen test result.”

    I will say, I didn’t realise this advice was still in force, as it’s now a bit hidden away on our website, and is no longer included in our weekly all-staff updates, but it’s still the official guidance. It’s also something I’ve seen managers use to start conversations with staff about whether they’d like to work from home or take a sick day, but that as they don’t meet the requirements to be on campus, they will need to leave. And it’s something that I’ve used in the past when letting people know that I won’t be in, I just say that I’m not well and don’t meet the requirements to be on campus so I’m either working from home or taking a sick day.

  56. Matt*

    Not wanting to defend Brian for it’s still inexcusable to put your coworkers at risk, but the system of (limited) “sick days” is contributing to that behaviour. We don’t have that where I work (there are “vacation days” and basically unlimited “sick time”, so if you’re sick, you’re sick – if you get sick during vacation you even get vacation days back on a doctor’s note since the vacation days are then converted to sick leave). However it’s the same even with WFH days – those are strictly limited to 60 % (which normally means 3 days WFH, 2 days in office in a 5 days week, but can be taken in other constellations) and this keeps people from staying at home with symptoms, because if you do one or two weeks of WFH only you have to do some other time without any WFH to make up for that, and people want to save their precious WFH days.

  57. Poly Anna*

    First, the coming in sick is obviously not OK. Especially after having been told about the reasons multiple times.
    But not sure if this counts as fan fic or not, but I have a bad feeling about the partner. I feel like maybe if Brian were a Brienne, we would maybe be more likely to entertain the possibility of abuse. What would happen if you set the limit but also discreetly treat this like a potential abuse situation? I think there are some good posts about how to deal with if you’re unsure what’s up.

  58. Sagegreen is my favorite color.*

    We are going to need an update on this as soon as anything happens please.

  59. Yellow sports car*

    LW you suspect your employee might be in a DV situation – if your company has policies around supporting DV victims you might want to take at those as well.

    Sometimes people come to work because home is not safe. If you’re joking about his wife being controlling and leading him to an early grave then you’ve at least had a thought that home might not be great.

  60. HonorBox*

    I have a coworker who has terrible allergies and refuses to take allergy medication. For months, they present as “sick” even though they’re not. That’s bad enough. But you’re dealing with a person who is actively ill and still coming in to work.

    While we don’t always KNOW that we’re ill/contagious, when someone is coming into work obviously ill – to the point of having to be driven to the ER(!) – that puts you in a position of having to manage not only around their absence, but the absence of others when they are exposed and get sick themselves. You need to address this because it isn’t just about the kindness of not exposing coworkers and patrons to illness, but because you’re put in a tougher position of being short-staffed when those coworkers are home sick, too.

  61. Respect others*

    My dad (96) and his wife (86) live in a 7000 home senior community. No one got Covid for 3 years! Why? Because they are of a generation where when an educated professional like Dr. Fauci says do this don’t do that , they listen and comply! They all got vaccinated and wore masks.
    Slightly off topic: when I see a lawn sign saying ‘science is real’ it breaks my heart. It’s sad we have to say that.

  62. Mouse named Anon*

    Brian really needs to not come to work when he has a fever and other bad symptoms. The only thing I will say is get sick quite a bit. Often times it lasts 10 days or more. I stay home from work when I am feverish, coughing and blowing my nose a ton, vomiting etc. But realistically I cannot stay home/wfh for the entire 10 days. Of course if tested positive for the flu or COVID, I wouldn’t go anywhere. I do my best to keep others from getting sick, sanitizing, washing hands, masking, taking meetings virtually. I have a bad year sickness wise, if I stayed home the entire time I probably would have been off for 30 days or more since November alone.

    I realize this isn’t Brian, and he comes to work really ill. But sometimes colds/sinus infections last a long time for people.

  63. megaboo*

    In my experience as a librarian, we can suggest that people stay home sick if they are sick, but we also have (I know, COVID should have eliminated this procedure) sick leave rules. Example, 3 days off and a doctor’s note, 4 days off they will suggest FMLA. We’re part of a government entity so we have to follow their rules.

  64. LibraryManager*

    As a manager in a public library myself, I say it’s almost impossible to know exactly where you caught something from. I deal with a few hundred people per day, and touch materials and computers that were handled by people of varying levels of cleanliness. Patrons come in sick ALL the time. Because of this, staff members frequently have colds. If I told people not to come to work if they have a sniffle, nobody would have any sick time left, and we’d be understaffed. It’s just part of working with the public – especially in a place that sees a cross-section of the community (people who have access to health care, and people who don’t, amongst many other things). The staff who are immunocompromised in this situation should maybe consider if a public library is the right place for *them* – especially if it’s a union situation where I wouldn’t be able to grant someone only “behind the scenes” work, and give her colleague all of the work on the public desk.

    1. Another Librarian*

      Wow — I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that you would push out staff with disabilities, but that’s how it’s coming across.
      Also, as a manager who presumably has some role in making sure that the workplace is safe for your reports, it’s not great that you are so focused on touch as a modality of disease transmission. Yes, it is — but as much effort as your team puts into cleaning surfaces, you need to be thinking about indoor air quality too. As a manager, can you check that the HVAC system in your building is working to spec?

  65. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Given that you’re a public entity, I highly suggest bringing this issue to HR. While I agree if he’s sick/contagious that’s a liability given that you’re open to the public (and if he’s so unwell that if he was sent home to work remotely he’d just go to bed, that means he’s not capable of performing his duties), there may be rules on how this is handled – including, if you force someone to go home, you can’t force them to charge their own accruals.

    But HR may be able to help you navigate this! They may have some tools and policies you can draw from to ensure to better navigate the situation. Without knowing your specific leave policies, union contracts (if applicable), and other work rules, I can’t speak to the best way, but they should be able to.

    Good luck.

  66. Sybil Writes*

    Since this is an ongoing pattern, I believe you need to be documenting every occurrence and every conversation you have with him about this pattern and what you need to see from him. I think Alison’s original response/suggestion was very good.
    Then you need to move him to a PIP if he does not follow through based on the expectations of the job and progress to termination if he cannot make the necessary changes.
    You say you are “tired of feeling like his mother and managing his sickness…” Well, you really have no standing to be acting like his mother or managing his sickness; you should be managing his work performance. Period. Patterns don’t happen in a vacuum and this is not Brian’s pattern alone. He may be showing up at work sick in part because he gets what feels to him like nurturing and TLC; that’s your part of the pattern. (and our own part is usually the hardest part of the pattern to see, isn’t it?)
    It seems wildly overstepping (and frankly weird) to me that you would get to a point where you are coercing him to let you take his temperature or that he has more than once seemed so ill that you considered calling paramedics, or couldn’t drive himself home, so you did. You need to stop mothering this person and start managing him as an employee, which he is. You can be kind and respectful while still maintaining healthy professional boundaries. I suspect all the people you are responsible for managing will thank you for this.
    Also, you may need to make sure your organization has written policies that A. support the goals you set for Brian in terms of attending the office and B. apply to all employees.
    Also, for what it’s worth, you and everyone else should knock off comments about his spouse leading him to an early demise. Whether said to Brian or behind his back, this is not funny (especially if there is any element of truth to it), not helpful and is unprofessional.

  67. Anony38282*

    People need to stop saying that the pandemic is over, it’s not. Covid still exists whether or not you hear it in the news.

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