Ask Amy: Panic over Covid-19 has brother ranting over the phone – OregonLive

Dear Amy: About a month ago, at the start of the pandemic restrictions in our area, I was talking with my brother by phone and he voiced concern about my husband’s work, which he believed might expose our mother to the COVID virus.

She lives close by, and we visit one another quite often. My husband, although an essential worker, has little to no contact with others while he works. He always showers and puts his clothes in the laundry whenever he gets home, before he greets me or the children.

My brother, believing that these efforts weren’t enough, proceeded to shout at me at the top of his lungs, accursing me of everything from not caring about our mother’s health, to not listening to him.

My husband and kids were in the next room, so I told him I would talk to him later when he calmed down, and then I hung up.

For the next three days he sent aggressive and threatening texts and emails; eventually I blocked his number.

My mother’s view is that “this is just how he communicates.” She wants me to let it go.

I’m fine with letting it go, but that doesn’t mean I want to continue to communicate with him. This is not the first time he has done this.

When it comes to family events in the future, how should I handle interactions with him?

— Had Enough

Dear Had Enough: Hopefully, you will – we all will – have family events in the future.

The law of natural consequences states that the natural reaction to being berated is to avoid the person who is berating you. If your brother has reasonable concerns to share, he should find a reasonable way to express them.

People are panicking right now. Your brother no doubt feels powerless. This doesn’t absolve him of the need to behave respectfully, however, and now – he has lost access to you.

Do not involve your mother in this conflict. He is her son, and she will defend his behavior in order to try to resolve this conflict between her two children.

In the future, you should approach every contact with your brother as an opportunity for a fresh start. If he can’t move forward, and chooses to try to relitigate this issue with you at every turn, then you will know that he is simply not ready, or able, to start over.

Dear Amy: I’m a small-business owner and have around 10 employees.

During the COVID shutdown I am continuing to pay all my employees their full salary. Some are at home, while some are able to work in isolated and safe shifts – strictly following the state guidelines for this industry.

One employee is agitating to be fired. This person is eager to receive unemployment benefits, believing – I suppose – that I would rehire them when the benefits run out.

I can keep my business afloat for around six months before running into serious trouble.

I am not judging anyone for taking government money, but I am disgusted by this individual who is gainfully employed but who basically wants things both ways.

I have now heard a rumor that the employee went ahead and applied for unemployment – despite still being employed and paid by me.

Now we are in a standoff situation, with me refusing to fire the employee, and the employee refusing to work and refusing to quit (because then they wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment benefits).

What’s your take on this?

— Employer

Dear Employer: It seems to me that if the employee is cashing paychecks AND unemployment checks, this would be grounds for termination “for cause,” which would then disqualify them from receiving unemployment.

This is from an article in the National Law Review: “That employer must consider whether the employee’s refusal [to work] is reasonable in light of the measures taken to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, whether the employee has a covered disability that must be accommodated, and whether the employee is entitled to leave under multiple layers of leave laws. This is a complicated analysis, and employers are well-advised to involve employment counsel to assist them at the outset.”

Dear Amy: You asked how people were spending time productively during our national confinement: I took up genealogy. Talk about a fascinating way to spend these long days!

— Satisfied

Dear Satisfied: Every leaf on every branch of every family tree contains a story. This is a really nice “legacy project.” Good for you.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068)

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