The first of what will likely (and sadly) become a regular series

The editors of DigBoston have decided it is our responsibility to do our best to cover breaking news about the coronavirus pandemic from around Boston and Massachusetts. However, consistent with our strong tradition of investigative reporting in the public interest, we want to focus on injustices relating to the COVID-19 outbreak that are committed by powerful institutions in our society against the people of the Bay State.

To that end, we are putting out a standing call for readers to contact us at when they see something happening in their community that fits the description above. We aim to post daily updates, under the banner “Notes from the Pandemic,” based on tips we receive, then follow up certain leads with more in-depth reportage. Please read on to check out our first update.

March 11, 2020

Harvard Admin Issues Questionable Sick Day Policy

An email—forwarded anonymously to DigBoston—has been sent by the Harvard University administration to its staff stating employees can take up to 14 “unearned” sick days due to the coronavirus, but may have to pay the school back if they lose their job before “rebuilding” sick time. The relevant section of the email follows:

Employees with insufficient accrued sick leave may use up to 14 unearned sick days (they may accrue negative sick leave balances of up to 14 days) for illness, to meet self-isolation or quarantine requirements, or for the active care of others because of disruptions relating to COVID-19. Harvard will review this threshold periodically as conditions change.

Harvard reserves the right to recoup this time from the final paycheck of employees who terminate before they rebuild their accrued sick time.

More nickel-and-diming behavior toward working people from an institution more wealthy than many nations—even in the face of a global health crisis. And what if people need more than 14 days of sick leave? Just fire them if they don’t go back to work?

A slightly truncated version of this update was originally posted to the @DigBoston Twitter account at 5:04 pm.