I was in a course for 2 days, small room, 4 people, 1 was very sick (cold or flu, and not respecting good practices like coughing in elbow).

I tried to take every precaution I know: wash hands frequently, eat my food outside the room, done my flu jab previously etc. I still got sick one day after, which made me skip work for 1 week and made 2 weeks of my life terrible.

I wanted at first to leave the course and go back to my work (which would have been the right decision in hindsight). But then I thought that my company paid for this course so I must be here.

In a company that is fairly big and health conscious: is it acceptable to skip courses or meetings because a person in the room is sick? So if my manager asks me why am I not in X place, I reply with "there was a sick person in a room and I didn't want to get sick myself".

  • Why did you not bring it up at the course? – Kilisi Dec 2 '18 at 15:51
  • @Kilisi it's hard socially. the presenter made a comment "glad I'm not sitting next to you" which was a bit weird, ok I am sitting next to him... – user1 Dec 2 '18 at 16:02
  • socially awkward is not worth 3 weeks misery, just my opinion. I know what you mean, but you see the end result. Unsure of your circumstances, but if I got sick for being shy, more than likely I would be feeling miserable and also have 4 sick kids to look after. Never mind the impact on my work. – Kilisi Dec 2 '18 at 16:12
  • Do you have any medical grounds for this ? transplant patient or something else that means its a serious health risk - that's the only reason that most employers would consider it acceptable. – Neuromancer Dec 2 '18 at 20:12
  • I think it is very valid reason to skip the meeting if actually your roommate required your care due to sickness. You can share this problem to your manager he will compensate you. You have also mentioned that your company is health conscious, than it is positive point that you can share them even regarding your sicknesd – Ahmad Raza Dec 3 '18 at 7:29

It may depend on the company culture, but generally you would be expected to take the course. The company had already paid for the course, and for a lot of courses if you did not attend then a refund would not be granted. Many jobs require exposure to people who are sick. As an example, most people working in retail have contact with hundreds of people per day, and at certain times of the year many of those people might be sick.

If you had a medical condition that would put you at an elevated risk, then I think it would be reasonable to ask your company for permission to leave the class.

Imagine the disruption that would happen if a company allowed anyone at any time to not participate in meetings because someone in the meeting was sick. We expect that other people will behave responsibly and not attend meetings or classes if they are likely to have a medical condition where they are likely to transmit an illness to someone else, but there's not really a way of enforcing this.

  • 1
    Yes there is a way of enforcing it. A responsible organiser would at least make some enquiries and if warranted send the sick person away. – Kilisi Dec 2 '18 at 16:06
  • @JoeStrazzere fair enough if they're taking some precautions and using a handkerchief or something and you're not sitting right next to them. With all those factors, it's a different matter. But if they're coughing on you, you're basically going to catch it. – Kilisi Dec 4 '18 at 8:25

Is it acceptable to refuse to be somewhere because there is a sick person in the room?

Yes it is, many of us cannot afford to get sick, I have 4 kids and a business to run. So my catching a cold impacts on several people.

I would have made this point immediately at the course and probably commented to the actual person that they should at least cover their coughs. My company is not paying for me to take health risks. If no solution was made at the course I'd take it up with my boss. But if it was warranted I'd get up and leave the course excusing myself with 'sorry, no offense, but I just can't afford to get sick.' or just say I'm not going to sit next to them and relocate as far away as I could. Someone else can be the hero covered in germs.

This is a failure on the part of the organiser and whoever was leading the course, it's only 4 people. A responsible organiser would at least make some enquiries and if warranted send the sick person away.

  • That's not really helpful, its not like you have to take anti rejection drugs and have a compromised immune system. – Neuromancer Dec 2 '18 at 20:09
  • 4
    +1 for common sense. If the sick person has disrespected all of us by coming and spreading their germs they have forfeit their right to being treated with respect. – solarflare Dec 2 '18 at 22:59
  • Unless you're a hermit, catching a cold always impacts several people. Not sure how that idea only affects some (many of us cannot afford to get sick). Also, there are plenty of times were we aren't paid to get sick (like at the grocery store) or worse, are paying to get sick (like on an airplane), so I'm not sure how the getting paid differentiates our lives from the not getting paid parts. – Edwin Buck Dec 3 '18 at 19:09
  • @Kilisi Well, let's try to keep the conversation rational, instead of going straight to hyperbole. Oddly enough, I joined the US Navy, who took pride in John Paul Jone's quote "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way" which was often shortened to "in harm's way". And yes, I did have a choice to join or not. So, the world is a little bigger place now, with oddballs that actually do what rational persons like yourself wisely opt to avoid :) And if that wasn't enough, I transferred to the US Marine Corps (Corpsman can do that). – Edwin Buck Dec 3 '18 at 21:43
  • 1
    @Kilisi I don't downvote on differences of opinion. I reserve that for answers that are harmful or somehow supportably wrong. But thanks for the offer. Your answer is neither, and a valid opinion, just different. – Edwin Buck Dec 4 '18 at 3:53

This is very tricky, as you're attempting to obtain behavior from someone else, and interacting with a 3rd party to do it. That kind of approach is called "triangulation" and often leads to more problems, and unsatisfactory resolutions.

The company paid for the training, so if you don't attend, odds are they are going to lose whatever money (or time) was set aside to train you.

The person who is sick probably knows this too, and is suffering through the class to not be the person "wasting the company's money".

I'd pull the person aside, and say "Hey I know we all get sick, but would you please cough and sneeze into your elbow like this, to lessen the risk we all get sick" (and then demonstrate). If you do it with the right tone and approach, odds are you'll hear nothing from others (or the sick person) than "OK".


It is (at least it would be with my employer) acceptable to refuse, but it is not acceptable to let your manager find out by chance. You need to communicate with your manager immediately (ideally the moment when you leave the course), so he can remedy the situation (probably by seeing to it that the sick person goes to a doctor instead of attending courses).

As a rule managers do not want their staff to get ill, so he will probably agree that you should not attend, but if it's a paid course he at least needs opportunity to claim a refund from the vendor.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .