Can you quit a job that is infested with bed bugs and collect unemployment?

Updated : September 23rd, 2022

Posted by Maureen,

I work in an assisted living facility in Denver, Colorado. I’ve been with this company for 10 years. We have become infested with bed bugs. Four coworkers have brought them home, and are now infested, and have had to throw out all their furniture, mattress, and so on. This has been very costly for them. All four of these coworkers have quit. They were afraid if they continued to work they might become re-infested again.

We have had several meetings about this situation and have been told…if we change our clothes, we won’t bring them home and become infested. This didn’t help my former coworkers…they still got them.

My job won’t pay to spray, bomb, or replace anything we have to throw out. Needless to say, I too am very afraid to bring these bugs home as well. I “itch” constantly while at work, the bed bugs are the main topic of conversation at work, and we wonder how unhealthy this may be if we are bitten. I gave notice to quit, and plan to move to Nebraska. I would have requested a transfer, but my company has facilities in almost every state but there. If I don’t find a new job when I move, would I be eligible to file and collect unemployment until I do secure employment?


Hi Maureen,

I’ve got two questions. When you gave notice to quit, what reason did you give the employer for your resignation?



Are you quitting because of the bed bugs or because you want or need to move to Nebraska?

Comments for Can you quit a job that is infested with bed bugs and be able to collect unemployment until a new job is found?
Home health care job client bed bugs infested my own home

by: Chris

I can’t really say whether if refusing to continue servicing this one client, would be considered misconduct by your state unemployment insurance agency, should your employer fire you over this.

I do know that if this had happened to me, as a result of doing my job, I would of been documenting the problem from the first moment I noticed a bed bug in the clients home and would likely still be communicating this way with the employer as an effort to resolve the problem of the cost of exterminating the bed bugs, while raising my concerns about any future re-infestation if the employer didn’t come up with a better solution than telling me to STRIP first, before entering my own home to avoid spreading bed bugs there again.

The reason being, is I know refusing to go back to this client’s, or any other future client’s home infested with bed bugs would raise my concern refusal could be argued to be insubordination (or refusal to follow a REASONABLE directive from an employer), not to mention that the way I see things from here, following the employer’s solution, presents the possibility I could be the cause of infecting another innocent client’s home on any given day I didn’t strip before entering their home, after leaving the bedbug clients home, that cost me $1500 of the money I earned doing my job.

Did you ask your employer to pay the extermination bill? Did they?

Quitting requires proof of good cause, generally proof proves quitting as attributable to the work, or the employer. This doesn’t mean an employer can’t, or won’t fire you, for even a reasonable refusal, which ends up being sufficient to meet their burden of misconduct, if you can’t prove it was the employer not following good sense to help resolve and control this type of work related problem.

Either way, you need documentation, your refusal was reasonable and it was the employer not being reasonable with whatever their solution to this nasty problem might have been.

$1500 for bedbug extermination is not an incidental additional cost to maintain an at-will working relationship.

So any basic advice now, as usual, is to keep the focus on those things that shift the fault for quitting to the employer, even if they choose to fire you for refusing to go back, so you can also show your actions (choices) were reasonable and not rising to something deemed to be misconduct.

Since you’re still an employee, I might also suggest you learn if there might be any state regulation relating to what a home health care agency must do, should a situation like this arise with a client.

I’m sure you can’t be the first, or last who this has happened to, or that it might not again become a concern for you personally in the future with another client.

To put your unemployment benefit problem in a nutshell if it were me, I’d focus on resolving this problem reasonably with the employer (documenting all communications regarding the situation, I mean email exchanges) I’d find some ammunition, by knowing what, if any, rule, or regulation might be applicable to this situation that is mandated by a regulation to be the responsibility of the ER home health care agency as it might give me some leverage while trying to adequately resolve this problem before I refuse to go back to this one clients home.

It’s better than the approach to argue it’s personal anxiousness, or nightmares causing any decision to refuse to go back to this client’s home, although I do get why you are feeling those things, as my skin is crawling as I type right now!!

 

Home health care job client bed bugs infesting my own home

by: Anonymous

I work in home health and recently a client told me they got bed bugs from dialysis. I have saw the bugs on him on 3 different occasions. I went home and found them in my house. I was freaked out!

I had to pay $1500 for an exterminator to clear my home. I told my employer and was told I needed to strip before entering my home.

Can my employer force me to go back into this home? I documented the whole thing and my employer called the client and confirm that he did have an infestation. Can I be fired for refusing to go back?

This ordeal has me anxious with nightmares and the cost is crazy.

 

To: Medical Coordinator Assistant

by: Chris

I really don’t know if refusing to put the “consumer” in your vehicle would be a reasonable refusal that wouldn’t amount to misconduct for the cause of discharge, because I’m no expert on bed bug behavior.

However, you also don’t sound like an expert, but are right now, assuming stuff about the chances of transferring the infestation.

And for me, that’s means you need real info first to get closer to being one, just to answer your own question.

It seems to me there should be some state regulatory commission you could go to and get guidance on the issue of bed bugs, when caring for the type of consumer you care for that will help you understand whether your fear is reasonable and legitimate, therefore whether refusing to transport him is reasonable to prevent the spread of bedbugs to an employee’s personal vehicle and homes if fired.

Medical Coordinator Assistant

by: Anonymous

My place of employment is working with the mentally and physically challenged. We have had a client that has bed bugs 4 times since.
This consumer normally gets 4 hours of services per day. He now has bed bugs again. Staff have been going to his apartment and staying on the porch and filling up his medicine pod, checking his blood sugar, makes sure he has groceries weekly.

My employer is wanting staff to put the consumer in a vehicle and ride around with him.

Can’t the bug crawl off him onto the cloth seats or carpeting in the car and therefore be spread to other people??

I don’t think that the upper management would put him in their vehicles. Can I get fired for refusing to transport him in a vehicle?

 

Response to above

by: Anonymous

The gm of the hotel reports directly to the owner, who is completely aware of the situation and is in “cahoots” with the general manager. It was told to me that the owner was the one ordering that these rooms be rented out. The health department has come out (something I forgot to add in the first comment) but they are always shown rooms that are not infested and from what I know, the gm is “buddies” with an inspector.

But did you make the report? Whether someone wants to quit, or fears getting fired for speaking up about legitimate health and safety issues at work and is thinking they will collect unemployment benefits, then they, just like any smart employer, has to document.

Documentation when you choose to quit a job is to show your those efforts to preserve you ability to keep working for an employer.

Documentation when the concern is a discharge for “misconduct” is to show it was not misconduct, and in fact, might of been a discharge in retaliation for making a reasonable effort to resolve these legitimate issues that can affect not only your health, but potentially your job should you refuse a directive from the employer to do something you believe to be unsafe and possibly an illegal directive from the employer.

Document, document, document.

I can’t believe, after all these years of writing those three words, how hard it still is for employees to see why it’s important and that they have a right to document what’s happening at work in much the same way employers document with employee handbooks to establish expectations, initial rule changes, signed rule receipt acknowledgement forms, without giving the EE a copy of the rules, write-ups and termination notices, never seen until both suddenly show up at an unemployment office as evidence against the employee.

Doesn’t matter that GM reports to an owner, all it means is for you, the buck is stopped there as a place to complain to, with the exception of using state regulatory agencies who provide the rules to that owner for the operation of his business,

And then there’s always the labor department, or a federal agency that give you your rights as an employee to work safely, fairly, and free from retaliation and discrimination, to complain to.

I know, it’s the complaining part everyone has a problem with, but I don’t have a solution to that problem, except to say, I also respect a conscience choice to take the high road, usually without benefits.

 

Bed bugs

by: Anonymous

I work at a hotel as a gm trainee. I was training in housekeeping, and our gm tried to make me and another housekeeper clean rooms that had only been sprayed once for bed bugs, when we had been told the room needed retreatment by the exterminator. He told us to clean them and get them ready to rent out THAT night. After we refused, he called the pest control and had then come fumigate again, then again, he told us to go inside and clean…

We cornered the exterminator and asked how long we ha to wait in order for us to go in those rooms, and he said AT LEAST 2 full days due to the chemicals they sprayed and the active bugs still possibly in the room. The “boss” lied and said 1 day and we could go back in. He also said that if we didn’t that it would “affect payroll”. We did get our checks, but what are our rights in a situation like this? Who should we call to report them trying to rent these rooms out after they haven’t fully treated them?

Your right is to work in safe working conditions, your response to being told to do something hazardous to your health via a directive from a superior at work is also your right. But what do you think, is also your right to sort of document what happened.

There is some government entity that controls hotels, motels, and oversee the welfare of the public staying in one.

I’m at work and see, or even become aware of bed bugs, I’m going the website of a health department.

I’m ordered to clean a room so it can be rented to the public before retreatment, but then my manager caves and does the retreatment, but tells me to go back in and immediate clean for rent, but the exterminator (who also works under regulations) tells me it’s not safe for two days, I’m going to the OSHA website to see if I can’t learn something about why I have a right to refuse and DOCUMENT the conditions for my refusal to obey a directive from my employer.

And why, because I’m better off in the end if I can show I tried to preserve my job in the face of what the employer was doing wrong, and I wind up still having to file for unemployment, whether quitting becomes the last resort, or I get fired first for insubordination by some boss who thinks he owns me 8,10,12 hours a day.

Tell me, does this GM have someone he/she reports to? Do they have an email address so you can make them aware they have a manager breaking rules of consequence to a business?

 

Bed Bugs OMG!

by: Anonymous

I work in a group home for the disabled. This home has been overrun with bed bugs for the past 2 years. A company has come in with their sniffing dogs and they have used chemicals and even heated the house at no avail. Recently all staff were invited to an inservice done by the very same company that’s been treating the home. They told all of us that we will never get rid of the bed bugs. Can this be construed as a hostile work environment? and doesn’t OSHA promise employees a safe and healthy work environment? Can I get unemployment insurance if I quit?

Hostile? No. However, you raise a good point about OSHA regulations being a relevant cause for unsafe working conditions. I’m sure OSHA has a regulation that probably, could be interpreted to include bedbugs, but it is clear, at least to me, that if an employer has gone as far as having an inservice with the extermination company trying to get rid of the bedbugs they can’t be blamed for ignoring the problem making it the employer’s fault you quit.

The cause and the argument have to be focused on some other reason. Your health, maybe the bites caused a skin infection “anxiety and stress, something and maybe the employer won’t consider a worker’s comp claim, and FMLA leave, a transfer, a something.,

Maybe the bugs were transferred to home and now the employer is telling you the cost for extermination, is your problem, Something anything besides hostility even a voluntary quit for intolerable working conditions when all else you try, fails,

I refuse to give people permission to quit their job by saying, yup, you’ve got it. I just try to get someone to see what employers see  it’s all, about the argument to the laws.

 

bed bugs

by: Dee

My friend’s job is infested with bed bugs. She has a medical condition and is afraid the bed bugs may make it worse. Can she quit because of the bed bugs and will she be able to collect unemployment for that reason.

Therefore it’s not the fact that her place of work is infested with bed bugs, nor the fact that she is afraid it may affect a health condition.

What would interest me, its what your friend plans on using to fulfill her burden of proof that she did in fact have good cause to quit as the rules are applied by whatever state she would be quitting employment in.

Possibly medical documentation which confirms that if the employer chooses to not take care of the infestation, that supports her good cause reason after exhausting all efforts to preserve the employment.

 



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