The Austin Chronicle

The Luv Doc: The Hot Zone

If you really want to be sure, complete immolation is the way to go

By The Luv Doc, January 5, 2018, Columns

Dear Luv Doc,

One of my co-workers is clearly sick and she has been for weeks. She coughs all the time and is clearly congested and says she feels really sick and weak but she is "not contagious." WHAT THE FUCK? Multiple people have told her to go home but she claims she has too much to do. I can't force her to stay home because I am not her manager. I would go to HR about her but another one of my co-workers claims he already has. I can't afford to get sick right now, but I don't know what to do. Am I overreacting or underreacting?

Hot Zone

Fortunately Hot Zone, there is a lot of reasonable advice out there on the interwebs about how you can protect yourself from contagion in the workplace. Some say it's best to keep hand sanitizer at the ready and to avoid common areas. Others say you should avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth. In Asian countries, surgical masks are all the rage. And then there are those who believe that there is nothing that can be done and we are all going to just get sick anyway. Those people are witches and should be burned at the stake.

Wait wait wait. Hear me out. I know burning witches has become a bit passé; in the last few hundred years what with the growing acceptance of science and whatnot, but if science has proven anything, nothing knocks out a persistent virus/bacteria like a baptism in fire. Yes, there are probably less drastic measures you could take that might yield equally effective results, but if you really want to be sure, complete immolation is the way to go.

Your co-worker has been Johnny Appleseeding it around the office for a few weeks now carpet bombing her co-workers with disease and pestilence, apparently with absolute impunity. That kind of aggression should not stand.

Yes, it is aggression. It may be clouded over by layer upon layer of ignorance/fear/stupidity, but to deny her behavior has any effect on the overall health of your office is the height of belligerence. Furthermore, she may be able to "function at a high level" when sick, but there may be/probably are several others in your office whose immune systems are compromised for any number of reasons and for whom even a mild respiratory infection has very serious consequences – up to and including death.

If I am in that position, I don't want my consumptive co-worker – whose experience in epidemiology is probably limited to a Buzzfeed listiclemaking the call as to whether she's contagious. I want the surgeon fucking general to make that call. Imagine if I had AIDS and decided it was OK to go around the office all day spooging in everyone's face because they "were probably going to get it anyway"? Yeah, gross. My guess is that the reaction of my co-workers would be swift and merciless – as it should be. Your reaction to this woman's should be no less severe. This is why HR departments were created. If they refuse to take care of the problem, light some torches.

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