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Work Quarantine -- Legal?

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  1. buggymcgee

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 14:40:00
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    Because I was pretty sure we'd had them for somewhere between 2 and 4 weeks, I disclosed my bed bug status to my boss as soon as we found out (Labor Day weekend) and my HR department had dogs come on Tuesday, closed the office Wed-Fri. They found an infestation in my chair and a bag of papers I'd been meaning to get rid of. I suspect I actually got them there -- I had also held on to a few cardboard boxes for a week or two before putting them in our copy room (where they also found some evidence of bugs, as well as near a printer) and seemed to have been getting bites on my hips for awhile before my husband started getting them at home (I'm not allergic, but he is).

    Anyway, I've been banned from returning until after we're finished treating (which is how they handled the last person who had them) AND they're requiring me to hire the same dogs the office hired. I'm not sure how expensive they are, and work has not offered to pay for it.

    Can they legally bar me from returning and not pay for the dogs?

    Our landlord (we live in a 4-unit rowhouse, but we think the basement tenant, a friend of the landlord, who lives below us, is probably not on the books, so it seems like a legally gray area, whether she is actually required to pay, or us) wants us to split the exterminator fees because she now thinks I got them from work too (I did not tell her my theory but my husband inadvertently let fly that we had them there too).

    Side note: my work, aside from a few friends there, has been AWFUL. In spite of the fact that I've purposefully kept a very stiff upper lip when talking to my boss, she started projecting all of her fears about them onto me, then told me that she went to the Holocaust museum, and that that put it in perspective (as if I were the one blowing it out of proportion). A problematic colleague has taken the opportunity to try to go around me on one of my projects, and keeps calling meetings when I'm taking sick days to do things like prep for exterminator. Yesterday, I joined a meeting by phone and only half of my coworkers knew why I was joining remotely, until my boss told them I might not be back for awhile, which raised questions, to which she answered that I was being quarantined (they had all seen the dog and knew the office had bbs). Coworkers started making stupid jokes about being jealous...I was shocked to the point of speechlessness, totally embarrassed. HR also hassled me about a canceled trip, saying that they wouldn't get back the airfare for the tix they booked to send me to a conference (which just seems too stressful after everything we've been through already, and I don't want to leave my husband to deal with the second round of treatment).

    Have others had awful experiences at work?

  2. ItchyNYC

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 15:04:29
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    I personally would NEVER tell.

  3. ItchyNYC

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 15:06:13
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    I have heard of people being fired - a little worse than quarantining someone.

  4. buggymcgee

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 15:32:57
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    I've been perusing other threads about work disclosure and see that your take on it is a common one, but if I hadn't told anyone, then I would have kept re-infecting my home, since I had either got them there or brought them there already. I also would not have been able to treat my office.

    So, even if it wasn't completely irresponsible not to tell (and -- while I completely understand why those who fear getting fired do not, I do think the code of silence is a big reason they're such a problem, and I for one have major ethical issues with not sharing this information), NOT TELLING WOULD HAVE KEPT ME IN A CYCLE OF RE-INFESTATION FROM HOME TO OFFICE AND BACK.

    Going back to my original question, if anyone wants to answer that -- it's not about being quarantined so much, but being required to hire dogs before going back. Working from home is not so bad, now that the bites aren't happening.

  5. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 19:52:27
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    The dog inspection likely costs in the $200-300 range.

    Hopefully it is a handler that visually verifies alerts per our FAQ on canine scent detection for bed bugs.

    As for who pays for treatment, I am not an expert but if local laws say treatment in a building with four apartments should be paid for by the landlord, then I am not sure that an unrelated tenant who is off the books would not count as a "unit" or "tenant". You need expert advice. I suggest calling a local tenants' organization as they often can give good advice on the local laws. We have a few listed in the Resources page but they're all over the place so be sure and Google this.

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
  6. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 19:55:31
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    Also, you probably need local advice on whether the quarantine is legal but if they're still letting you work and paying you, that's a lot better than some scenarios.

    I understand where you're coming from about disclosing, though several here have been fired or sent home on "quarantine" without pay, and in this economy, that can be a nightmare (and may potentially allow bed bugs to spread further-- if the employee has responsibility for treatment and is now unemployed, and has to stop dealing with the bed bug problem).

    Again, not a lawyer but I understand in NY, where I am, you can be fired for no reason at all.

    It's not a black and white issue and people need to be aware of the risks in advance.

  7. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 20:25:26
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    You could see if you can get a free consultation with an employment lawyer, but it's not likely. It's a complex legal matter. If you have an employee handbook or policy manual, bring it to the meeting. Most states are "at will", where employers only get sued is for discrimination for certain protected groups, unsafe working conditions, etc. BBs haven't been tested in the court much that I know of.

    Personally, and this is not a legal opinion, I'd probably pay for the dogs at your place. It's going to be a while before this issue is resolved.

    I would document everything, and VERY VERY discreetly see if this policy is enforced at all levels. Nothing will probably come of it. It will probably be hard, but put this behind you and keep being a great employee.

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  8. ItchyNYC

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 21:28:19
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    I totally understand about worrying about bringing them back and forth. I thought I had brought them to work, but I was just off from work for a couple of weeks and I now think there aren't any there. I sometimes feel like I'm getting bitten by something even when I have just washed/dried clothes on that I had stored in a ziploc. I think that's just my skin acting up since it has not healed yet, so I was thinking I brought them to work since that would happen when I was sitting at my desk (it happens other places too though). It's not happening at my desk as much as it did before my break, hardly at all, so I'm hoping there are none there. Someone suggested if need be I should tell someone at work that I saw one crawling around there. I guess I would do that if it becomes necessary.

  9. ItchyNYC

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 21:32:18
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    Oh and I never ever have seen one at work or on my clothing either, so I'm hoping I didn't bring one or more to work (like in my purse). I plan to start treating all my handbags in my packtite starting this weekend (the packtite I bought 2 weeks ago but still haven't set up yet!)

  10. ItchyNYC

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 21:49:33
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    I just realized you said you think you originally got them from work; people have sued for that, not sure how likely you are to win though (someone who worked at Fox TV in NYC sued and won but I think it was overturned). I also suggest you pay for the dog though. I'm not sure how easy it is to prove you got them from work if you wanted to try to go that route to at least get them to pay for the dog instead of you having to pay.

  11. theyareoutthere

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    Posted 6 years ago
    Thu Sep 13 2012 21:54:06
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    Good luck. I can't imagine what you are going through.

    Itchy, set up your packtite! (I did the same thing


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