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Once quarantined, now out of work, Lynn man may be out of luck

By Elyse Carmosino | March 26, 2020

LYNN — When Sal (not his real name) first started to feel ill early this month, he initially brushed off the signs. 

He was a contracted employee and had just started work at a well-known financial institution in the city. He couldn’t afford to take any time off. 

Within days however, Sal’s symptoms grew too serious to ignore, and the 38-year-old Lynn resident was forced to leave his job to visit the emergency room at North Shore Medical Center, where he was tested for COVID-19 and asked to quarantine himself while he waited for his test results (which would eventually come back negative). 

Throughout the ordeal, Sal said his manager at his new job seemed worried about him, texting regularly to ask how he was doing. 

“The manager, through text message, seemed to be really concerned and whatnot. ‘You need to take care of yourself please, blah, blah, blah, this and that,'” he said. “I actually called her after I drove out of the emergency room port to let her know what was going on. I (worked) in a building with a lot of people. Anybody there could have gotten sick, so I felt like it was my responsibility to be like, ‘hey, there may be a possibility (that other people were exposed).'”

Days later, Sal was notified by his temp agency that his contract with the company had been terminated. He said he received no prior word from his former manager, nor anybody else at the institution. 

“I’m a contractor, so they’re not (obligated) to keep my job,” he said. “The fact that I wasn’t there probably drove them to just end my contract work.”

He said he initially requested VPN access from home so that he could continue working, but after notifying his manager that he was having difficulty connecting to the company’s network, he was eventually instructed not to work from home. 

There was no mention of terminating his contract, although Sal said he suspected what was coming. 

“There’s always an expectation from the employee, but as an employee, I also have an expectation from the manager,” he said. “She didn’t communicate very well.”  

During his employment with the company, Sal added he had confided to his manager — whom he described as initially kind and welcoming — about a preexisting condition that affects his immune system and prolongs any illness he gets. 

“It’s funny because I work in HR and I know that they don’t have the right to know that personal information,” he said. “But I kicked myself in the butt when I opened my mouth and told her I have a preexisting condition.”

Although he felt comfortable disclosing that personal information at the time, Sal now thinks the manager’s knowledge of his medical condition likely contributed to the termination of his work contract. 

To add to his stress, Sal said he also doesn’t have health insurance and his medical costs continue to rise. With the coronavirus outbreak expected to put thousands of businesses on hold over the next several months, Sal, who lives with his sister and her husband, is worried. 

“It’s going to be hard because there are a lot of doubts. Nobody’s interviewing right now because of the coronavirus outbreak,” he said. “I have bills to pay. I pay rent, I have school loans, I have personal loans — just regular bills that people have when they’re independent.” 

He said collecting unemployment might help, but the payments can be inconsistent and wouldn’t be nearly enough to cover everything. Stress makes his condition worse, and the future — even just a few months down the road — is uncertain. 

“I’ve had relapses because of the overthinking, so I’m trying not to give it too much thought,” he said. “I have enough for a month worth of bills, but after that, I don’t know.”