‘I went to get a Covid-19 test and now I’ve lost my job’


A queue for a Covid-19 test in Mulhouse, France.
Photo: Shutterstock

A French housing association has dismissed an employee after he visited his office before he had learnt the result of a coronavirus test that proved positive.

HLM M2A worker Sébastien Klem, 41, argued that he had no idea he had the virus and had only taken a test because he was driving past a diagnostic centre and saw there was no queue.

However, he did concede in a TV interview that while he felt generally fine he had a “light” cough.

He told broadcaster France3: “It was a case of seeing an opportunity while I was driving. All I did was follow the government’s recommendations. The advice to get tested was all over the media. I felt on fine form and the day before I even went running.”

On 16 July Klem returned to his office in Mulhouse after taking the test. The same evening he found out he was positive for Covid-19 and immediately told his employer and self-isolated for 14 days with his four-year-old daughter.

His employer disputed his version of his events, however.

After a month HLM M2A wrote to him, stating: “Despite carrying out a test on the morning of 16 July 2020, and despite the risk that you have put other colleagues in, you returned to your professional activity in the afternoon and mixed with work colleagues when you had doubts about your state of health in going and having a Covid-19 test.

“Your behaviour is totally irresponsible and constitutes a violation of your obligation towards safety. One does not get tested if one doesn’t have a suspicion” of having the virus. Klem was dismissed for serious misconduct but he is mounting a case at the French equivalent of an employment tribunal.

Eric Peter, the director general of HLM M2A, said: “He told colleagues he had a fever. They have given us written statements to this effect. We don’t play with people’s lives … given the seriousness of what happened there was no other possible punishment.”

All staff at the housing association received notification in May that they should work at home if they had the “slightest symptom”.

There’s no evidence Klem passed on the virus to his family members or any colleagues and he said he had a medical certificate  that showed he had a light cough and no other symptoms.

He told the TV station: “I went to get a test and I am punished. I’m now unemployed. If I hadn’t done the test I’d still have my job except I might perhaps have killed someone,” he said.

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