my boss keeps bringing her sick child to work — Ask a Manager


A reader writes:

My boss keeps bringing her sick child to work because she can’t send them to school or daycare since they won’t accept sick children. While I understand that it’s hard to find someone to look after them, especially when both parents are working, I get sick every time I’m at work with the sick kid around. One day of being exposed to the kid results in me being sick for a week, and I don’t have paid sick leave. I admit that my immune system isn’t the best. I’ve tried wearing a mask, hand-washing, and sanitizing as much as I can, but it’s a small office. Is there anything else I can do?

She is the top person in the company. There is no HR department, and it’s a strictly in-person job so there’s no option for me to work from home.

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked: “Have you or anyone else ever tried to speak to your boss about it? How approachable is your boss in general? Would you feel comfortable raising it or would you expect her to respond badly? And last, would anyone else be allowed to bring a child to work or is your sense that this is seen as a boss-only privilege?”

I haven’t spoken to my boss about it and, to my knowledge, no one else has either.

I’m honestly not sure how approachable she is. I haven’t been there for very long so I don’t know how she deals with situations. But when customers try to give her a hard time, she immediately shuts it down with, “I’m not going to argue with you.”

It’s definitely a boss-only privilege. She has said before that it is one of the perks of being the boss, otherwise she wouldn’t be able to do it.

Well, this is BS.

In a small office, your boss definitely should have noticed the patten that whenever she brings her sick kid to work, an employee is then sick for a week. A single instance of that should have been enough to shame her into stopping. Multiple instances of it? She sucks.

And of course, she shouldn’t need that to happen at all to realize the risk she’s forcing onto the rest of you — particularly given the education we’ve all received in the last few years about infectious diseases and people who are immunocompromised. Again, she sucks.

And of course she’s someone who doesn’t offer any paid sick leave.

In fact, the “no paid sick leave” is the more pressing issue here. That’s a crap policy and it’s usually the sign of a crap company.

You have a couple of options. You could say to your boss, “Each time you’ve brought Jane in when she’s sick, I’ve ended up catching what she’s had. I know you’re in a tough spot when she’s ill, but with no sick leave, I can’t afford to get sick.” Alternately — and probably more effective — you could get a group of coworkers to all say this together. I doubt you’re the only one who’s bothered by what your boss is doing and a group of you will be harder to ignore than one person. That doesn’t mean she won’t ignore you anyway — she sounds like she might — but it’s reasonable to try and if nothing else, it will put her on notice that people don’t like this.

If it were a larger company, you could go over her head or talk to HR, but you don’t have those options.

Really, though, no paid sick leave in a full-time job is a “get out as soon as you can” situation.



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