This Monday morning I arrived at work and said hello to my warehouse coworker (JohnDoe). My coworker replied in a horse voice and coughed. In the next few minutes, he coughed several more times and had a runny nose. JohnDoe was out sick last week with the flu. Even though the boss said that his doctor released him to come back to work, I think that he is still infectious and possibly with something worse than the flu. I explained what I saw to my boss, and she said that I could go home. I left immediately.

Three weeks ago, she said that we could go down to half-days to avoid having so much close interpersonal contact. She stressed that going down to half-days would not jeopardize our future employment. I accepted this offer, but JohnDoe continued to work full days. I was extremely glad that she said that taking time off would not jeopardize our employment, because I have only been at this job for three months.

Today I left with haste, and did not make further arrangements with my boss. We are a small shop, it's just me and JohnDoe in the warehouse (we receive, load, and deliver valves, gaskets, pipes, and fittings to pulp-and-paper mills). Losing an employee would normally be a big deal, but right now it is completely dead. When JohnDoe was sick last week, I went back to working full days. There was only enough work to keep me occupied for about three hours a day.

How should I approach my boss? I am going to call her, but I don't know what to say. I'd like to keep working, but I can't trade health for money.

Should I ask my boss to let me stay home for a week? What time frame is realistic for returning? Do I need to go back immediately to avoid risk of losing my job?

I am in Washington State, although not in King or Snohomish (the hardest hit counties).

  • "Should I go back to work with a mask?" You should be wearing one whenever you go out in public
    – sf02
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 17:14
  • @sf02 I have been wearing a fabric mask when going to the store. I don't have any real masks, and I don't think a bandana is enough to keep me from getting sick. I have edited that out of the question, because real masks (N95 type) can't be purchased right how. Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 17:20
  • 2
    @JoeStrazzere I am not a healthcare professional, but the presence of a cough, sore-throat, and runny nose is enough to make me think that he is still communicable. He is obviously still sick. I did not see the doctors note releasing him to work. Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 18:38
  • 5
    Masks - certainly not fabric ones - don't keep you from getting sick. They keep you from infecting other people. Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 19:02
  • 1
    You seem comfortable explaining the whole situation to us; why not be transparent with your boss? Likely she knows there isn't much work to do anyway. Maybe you could work at night? Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


Say to your boss what you said to us, and ask for advice.

Asking for advice is always a good idea when talking to supervisors. It puts everybody in a problem-solving frame of mind rather than an order-giving / order-taking frame of mind. The order-giving frame of mind can make supervisors very anxious, especially when it's about employee health and safety. Many supervisors deal with their anxiety by trying to be tough.

You might suggest that the employee with symptoms take leave rather than you. Giving that person some leave (paid leave, even) and keeping you working probably is good for the business.

  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere While you are correct, the answer never suggested forcing anyone to do anything. You may not intend it but your comment can read as putting words into the mouth of the answerer.
    – jwpfox
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 22:04
  • @JoeStrazzere Are you claiming that indicates an intent to apply force? If you read that into those words then you are adding a lot in your head to what is on the page.
    – jwpfox
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 22:43
  • @JoeStrazzere I understand that you don’t understand. Let’s leave it at that.
    – jwpfox
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 23:07

You must log in to answer this question.

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