Why isn't it illegal to go to work with a contagious disease.

I know. We’ve all done it before. “I’m not THAT sick. I can still function well enough to go to school.” Or, “I have a lot to do at work. And I’m not that sick. I’ll just take some DayQuil and cough drops. I’ll be fine.”

HOW RUDE WE ALL ARE!!! We all decide that WE are well enough, but don’t even THINK about how sick we might be making other people! And these people might have immune systems worse than ours. We could be REALLY making other people sick. Don’t you feel guilty when you get sick, decide to go to work, then the next day your co-worker is sick? Don’t you just feel awful about it??? What would have happened if you stayed home? You would have pampered yourself and made yourself well that much faster. AND the other person wouldn’t have been sick. Even if neither of you take sick time your productivity will drop. And you are spreading the illness everywhere you go. It only makes sense to stay at home when you are sick. If you aren’t that bad, one day of rest should kill it quickly when 3 days of working would only make it worse.

They should make it illegal to go out in public if you have a contagious disease! So you’re sick and you need some tissues and medicine? Send a family member to the store or have the store deliver. You should have stocked up when you were well. You just HAVE to get to work? You are sick! Someone can cover. I know, in some cases SOME people just can’t miss work. There should be special licenses for these people. They should have to prove that a cold can’t stop them from working. That their job is too important. But for the rest of us, if we all do our part and quarantine ourselves we will have this cold and flu thing LICKED! You’ll get sick only very rarely, maybe once every 5 or 10 years!

Just think about the millions of unessesary infections this rude behavior has caused. I have had enough of it. I will no longer contribute to the suffering of others by forcing myself to miserably plunder through work when I should be in bed. I have just decided that from now ON I am not going to leave the house if I am contagious - EVER AGAIN! I will quarantine myself in my house until I am well.

Who’s with me?

So… how would you plan on enforcing this?

Infectious diseases are not covered under employment laws, they don’t pay income taxes, payroll taxes, etc. You would have to talk to the IRS but I don’t think it is legal to even hire and infectious disease. Even

By extension I guess it also would be illegal to work with one.

[Emilly Latella Voice] What?, oh, nevermind [/Emilly Latella Voice]

If I were with you I’d get sick and that would kind of negate the purpose…

I agree, it would be nice if ill people didn’t come to work, but what do you expect them to do? Sick time is limited and we all have financial responsibilities we have to take care of. Rent isn’t going to wait just because I had a cold. Using up vacation time isn’t really feasible - use it up on an illness, don’t get a real vacation, get sick again from not having a break . . . that just starts a vicious cycle.

As long as American corporations are geared toward getting the most work for the least money, people will come to work sick. It’d be nice if policies could be changed so if someone is under a doctor’s care and proven to be ill, they aren’t penalised for being off work. Until that happens, take some ecchinacea & garlic to boost your immune system and hope for the best.

I’m with one you this one man, on the rare occiasions I get sick I’ve always stayed home from class or work from the moment I know I’m sick till I feel better. Usually only requires a day or two for most colds. My productivity sucks when I don’t feel good, I want to be at work even less than usual and I know I’m spreading germs, so I’d just as soon stay in bed reading and napping for a day or two. I used to have co-worker who was sick all the damn time. He’d sit in his cubical in front of me sniffeling, weezing and coughing all day, not getting any work done all day. He’d get worse and worse over the course of the week, take a few half days and then be out most of the next week. A couple months go buy same thing happens again. I often tried pointing that if he took his sick days upfront, as soon as he got sick, he’d feel better sooner and ultimately use less sick days!

I’ve often wondered what makes so many people put their jobs before their health, and that of others. Only thing I can think of is that the American work ethic is so opposed to having a personal life that many of us feel it’s our duty to put work ahead of our health. Uhg. I’m curious to know if our European Dopers see a lot of this behavior in the work place. I know many European countries have set much better standards for their workers regarding personal time than we do in the US I’d think that would affect the attitude of employees coming in sick or not.

I agree. It is good business for employers to encourage their employees to STAY HOME when they are sick. Couple of reasons:

  1. It is more costly in the long run.
    (a) The sick person is inefficient.
    (b) The sick person infects others.
    © The sick person may become sicker instead of better, and end up being out more time after all.

  2. A person who is “given a break” and allowed to stay home when ill (or when their child is ill) is more likely to go the extra mile when extra work is needed.

Personal experience: I had been working at company X for only a few weeks. I got a call from school that my daughter had a serious medical problem. I went to my boss, obviously upset, and was asking for permission to leave, please, I’d make up the time on the weekend, etc. “What are you doing?” he demanded. “Family comes first. Get out of here. Go take care of it. Come back when everything is under control. Go.” You better believe that when a few months later a problem came up when he needed somebody to work through the holiday weekend. I was the first to volunteer.

On the other hand, one summer job I had, they used to check that you were not even one minute late or they’d cut back your pay. Place was full of clock-watchers who were out the door the instant the second hand hit the 12.

Cowboy, I think I must have hit post one second after you did. Agree – nobody ever said on his deathbed, “Gosh, I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

I am not very good about staying home - I feel guilty about being home for more than one day. So, I try to work through it - bad me! I don’t know what it is - even when I stay home sick, I still get on my computer and work - probably harder than I do on a regular work day. I worked myself into Bronchitis Christmas 2001 - I flew home for the holiday, and literally spent the first day home curled up in bed. I definitely need to work on this - if I am sick, I need to take the time to get well. Luckily, I really don’t get sick that often.


Try, when you are starting to become sick (and I’m glad it’s not often) that it is now your JOB and RESPONSIBILITY to get well as soon as possible. You are NEEDED and therefore must get well efficiently.

It isn’t my work ethic, (what work ethic?) it’s my bank balance.
If I could take time away from work when I was sick and still manage to pay rent, food, clothing, gas, etc., I would take the time away from work. I would expect the same is true for many people. (There’s always those who just love to work, but a not-insignificant portion is showing up to keep from losing their jobs).

Yeah, really eats me up inside.

But a really evil part of me is chanting over and over: “Misery loves company, misery loves company, misery loves…” ad infinitum. Admit it. It’s chanting in your head, too. You hear the voices, don’t you? The voices that no amount of staying home from work will cure? <cue evil laughter>

Easy. If a cop sees you sick, you get a ticket for… oh… something like “endangering the health of the community.”

Sure it won’t catch everybody, but when you realize you left the house without your driver’s license don’t you feel that much more scared of getting pulled over? Don’t you drive all the more carefully, even though driving without your license is really a minor infraction? And chances are, if you are sick, you aren’t going to be driving all that well. More likely to attract the attention of cops. (Also, driving when you are too sick IS illegal today. It’s just not really enforced.) If you are walking around, maybe going through the subway you might get seen by a cop, or if you ride on the bus, then it would be the duty of the bus driver to turn you in. Shoot! He doesn’t want to get sick too! And buses and airplanes are really great places to catch a cold.

The best thing is if it’s the law then employers will have to make it easier for you to take sick time. What, they expect you to break the law? If they try to make you go to work, then you can turn them in for violating your rights to be healthy. This is the real power of this law. It will give the employee the leverage over the employer he needs to get well.

I’m afraid that if you come to work sick, your employer is more likely to see you as a “real trooper” instead of a menace.

If you use very few sick days, you will likely get a better work review and/or raise than if you take all your sick days.

Nevermind the fact that your coming to work sick caused 10 people to be less efficient for a couple weeks instead of having one person take a few days off.

It’s all well and good to forbid sick people from working to protect public health, but you do realize that with a great many illnesses by the time you show symptoms you’ve already been contagious for days, right? What then? Weekly blood tests to see if you’re infected with something?

I realize that the OP was “why isn’t it illegal.” Obviously, that’s impractical. The problem is exactly what Bearflag said.

I don’t see why it is impractical. Sure maybe at first when more than 1 out of every 1000 of us is sick at any given time. But that’s just because we’ve allowed ourselves to live with this menace. If you keep your disease to yourself then the illness will die before it gets out and mutates. The instances of flu and cold will quickly drop. It won’t be a gradual change either. If they enacted the law tomorrow and most of us followed it, almost overnight the number of cases of cold and flu would drop dramatically. I’m thinking like 90%. Within a month.

Yeah, I’m dreaming. But you have to admit that if people did this then you would hardly ever get sick. And the fact that humans wouldn’t do it, and cops probably wouldn’t enforce it goes to prove that human beings are rude and selfish assholes.

As to elkin’s comment. I NEVER get sick except from a co-worker or friend or family member. EVERY SINGLE time I have become sick since I was a child I have EASILY been able to track my illness to the culprit the day before. EVERY single time. I went to school, a friend was sick, that night my throat was itchy and I was in bed for a week. My friend should not have gone to school. I went to work on Monday. A co-worker came to work sick. That night I was sick.

And even if you are contagious longer than you feel sick, if you only quarantine yourself when you feel bad there will still be a huge improvement on the general health of the population. I’m not saying that we can wipe out the cold and the flu. But we can sure limit it.

MLS, your two points are probably right, but they require managers to (a) be capable long-term vision and (b) trust in their employees. A quick perusal of The Pit indicates that are not exactly universal qualities in managers, and the bigger the company you work for, the more likely you are to have someone who subscribes to the “There’s No ‘My Kid Has Cancer’ In Team” theory of leadership.

It’s too bad, because it probably would be good business.

prisoner6655321, I totally agree with you, and I have a terrifically relevant and annoying example: I have a student in one of my classes who has pneumonia. She was absent for 2 days and then came in and has been in for the last 5 days, even though she is clearly sick as a dog. She says she hates staying home because her mom drives her nuts and she’s bored AND she can’t bear to go without seeing her boyfriend. Grrrrr.

And yes, (I swear this is true), now 3 of the 5 kids who sit adjacent to her have become seriously ill with the flu since she returned to school with her disease. I like this girl, but I could kick her germy little ass for getting all those other kids sick.

Actually, it’s **4[/4] other kids… I just remembered that the kid who sits behind her was out for 3 bloody days. Little Typhoid Mary…