When most of our customers first realize they have a bed bug problem on their hands, they have two questions. Their first: “How do I get rid of these horrible things!” Their second: “Oh god, should I tell my boss?”
Well, we have all the answers you need on how to get rid of bed bugs on our bed bug Dayton treatment page. So, let’s turn our gaze in this guide to the tricky question of whether you should let your employer know your home is infested with bed bugs.
Let’s get the legal dimension dealt with right away. You aren’t legally obligated to tell. Your home life is your business, and no state or federal law requires that you divulge a bed bug infestation to your employer.
Three Reasons We Don’t Have a Definitive Answer
You may be frustrated (or perhaps relieved!) to read this next bit.
We’re not going to give you a definitive answer to the question of whether you should tell your employer about your bed bug problem – for three interconnected reasons:
- We don’t know your work environment – You may have a boss just itching (no pun intended) to lay staff off. You may work in an extremely judgmental environment where any problem of this nature would sound the death knell of your career. For anyone who works paycheck to paycheck, this stuff counts.
- We don’t know your financial situation – There’s a good chance you may be required to take time off to deal with the infestation. That time off may be unpaid. You may not be able to afford that. If that’s you, far be it from us to tell you to make a decision with financially disastrous consequences.
- Ethics boils down to the individual – A lot of this boils down to ethics. We all draw our own ethical lines in the sand.
So, steering well clear of “shoulds,” let’s take a look at the practical, social, and ethical considerations when deciding whether you should tell your boss you have bed bugs.
Bed Bug Biology
According to the EPA, it’s highly unlikely a bed bug infestation will break out in an office or similar work environment. These spaces tend not to have the furnishing bed bugs thrive in.
However, bed bugs are highly mobile and can move from individual to individual. Especially when you were unaware you had bed bugs, one of your colleagues may take bed bugs home with them.
So the bad news is, a bed bug problem can spread via a work environment.
Many larger companies will have formal HR policies prescribing what to do when an employee reports a home infestation of bed bugs.
These policies frequently involve sending the employee home until the situation is resolved. So steel yourself – you may face some financial fallout.
A (Tough!) Work Preparation Routine
If you are in a position where you feel you have no choice but to go to work, you’re going to need to commit to a reasonably rigorous preparation routine until your infestation is dealt with by an exterminator.
Dry all your clothes on high heat, sealing them in a plastic container. Be sure to get changed right at your front door. You’ll also need to repeat the process every time you come home.
The bottom line is, if you feel you can’t divulge your infestation to your boss, the onus is on you to do everything possible to protect your colleagues.
You May Face Stigma
In a very real sense, this is personal. Even if you feel your co-workers and employers are unlikely to judge, for many of us, it just goes against the grain to divulge something so personal. You may encounter stigma from co-workers who don’t understand that a bed bug infestation is nobody’s fault.
If you’ve gone through this ordeal, you’ll likely realize pretty quick how horrible it feels to be on the receiving end of unfair judgment. Make sure you pay it forward if ever a friend or colleague has the same problem. Lend them support and show them that you don’t judge them personally. A bit of empathy really helps!
And yes, there are professional considerations here. As unfair as this is, you can’t control how your boss will react. They may be misinformed and judge your professional acumen because you stepped forward.
The Good News! You Have Great Educational Resources
An easy way to deal with these social challenges is to go in prepared with information. Print out these information sheets from the CDC and EPA. Take every opportunity to inform your workplace that bed bugs are nothing to be ashamed of. They’re a problem to be tackled like any other public health issue.
Then we get to where the rubber hits the road: ethics.
The fact is, it’s incredibly challenging to avoid spreading bed bugs when you have a widespread infestation in your home. Unless you discovered your problem very early, the chances are it’s already happened.
And of course, every home that experiences a bed bug infestation becomes a new vector for the problem to spread.
It’ll be tough. You’ll be relieved when it’s over! But unless you have a genuinely pressing reason not to tell, letting your employer know is really just the right thing to do.
Just One Exterminator’s Opinion
Like we said at the beginning of this article, we’re not in the business of telling folks what they should do. We all have to decide for ourselves! But if you want our opinion, here’s what you should do.
Sometimes “Adulting” Is No Fun
Let your boss know.
Yes, there are exceptions. If you know your boss is an awful human being and will judge you (possibly even firing you), then obviously you’re dealing with a crazy situation and may need to resolve your problem quietly. You might also want to find a new employer!
Generally speaking, though, having that awkward bed bug conversation is a necessary evil. Rip the bandaid and have the peace of mind you’re not making it a big secret.
Deal With the Problem Quickly
Some home problems are OK if you get around to them eventually. A bed bug infestation is not that problem. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is to get rid of these nasty little blood-sucking pests.
Our number one advice in this situation is that you have an exterminator professionally heat treat your home for bed bugs as soon as possible.
Swift action will get your problem resolved sooner. Acting fast also means you can tell your boss you’re taking practical steps. Win-win.
And Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself!
If you do bring bed bugs to work, please don’t beat yourself up over it! Guilt won’t help anyone, and these creatures are traumatic enough as it is without adding to your woes with misplaced blame.
Remember, anyone’s home can experience an outbreak of bed bugs.
The best and only thing you can do is take action. Talk to an exterminator the moment you see bed bugs in your home. Then relax and let the experts take care of the rest.