COVID discipline

There was Mary Mallon and typhoid. There was Thomas Guerra and HIV. There were many others, before and after, intentionally infecting others with potentially deadly diseases.

Today, some people with COVID-19 intentionally put others at risk. What discipline should we impose on an employee who shows up to work knowing that they are contagious?

When it comes to discipline, I usually ask the following questions:

  • Was it a breach of performance or a breach of trust?
  • What is the less severe discipline we can impose to ensure that a similar misconduct won’t happen again?

A breach of performance can often be remedied by teaching the employee a new skill. A breach of trust is often fatal, leading to termination.

If an employee enters the workplace knowing that they can spread COVID-19, they commit a breach of trust. Should they be terminated? In most cases, yes. Someone who is willing to do that is also willing to engage in many other types of misconduct, and we should not give them the chance. In many jurisdictions, it is a crime to intentionally spread an infectious disease (including COVID-19) and I am not keen on keeping criminals in the workplace.

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