CHICAGO (CBS) — They keep the nation’s busiest airport shipshape, but a custodian supervisor for the Chicago Department of Aviations tells the CBS 2 Investigators he and his employees are afraid to call in sick.

The Chicago Department of Aviation said it takes COVID-19 quarantines very seriously, but Lavon Shields, foreman of custodians for the Chicago Department of Aviation, claims he had to report to work even with a doctor’s note.

“It’s becoming a cesspool of just disease,” said Shields.

Shields oversees about 34 employees at O’Hare International Airport, the ones who air travelers might see scrubbing the tables in the food court or emptying the trash.

“They’re telling me that they can’t afford this. If I’m sick, I’m going to come to work if I’m not getting paid,” he said. 

Shields said he quarantined for 10 days after a potential exposure, and he had a doctor’s note, that said he needed to stay home until Jan. 6.

“They immediately told me, ‘You will not be paid for that quarantine,’ and ‘Are you coming to work?'” Shields said. “Even with a doctor’s note.”

Another CDA employee also reached out with a similar story about her doctor’s note not being honored.

Shields said he even detailed his concerns in a submission to 311. He got a confirmation number but went back to check later and it was gone.

The Office of Emergency Management and Communications said it was forwarded to the CDA and closed. And then it was apparently deleted.

An outside expert told CBS 2 even if it was closed there should still be a record. Shields said he never got a response.

Friday a spokesperson told CBS 2 that for privacy reasons they cannot comment on an individual case, but “any employee who is known to have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 is required to quarantine and encouraged to be tested.”

If an employee is placed on quarantine by CDA, they are paid.

Shields said he and his employees just want their fears to be taken seriously.

“They’ve been talking to me about the money instead of about the people, and I think it’s more about the people and the public,” he said.

As of Dec. 28, 137 CDA employees at O’Hare had tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Twenty-two have tested positive at Midway International Airport.

CDA sent a long list of precautions and said if an employee tests positive there’s extensive contact tracing to keep employees safe.

Testing for airport employees is available at both O’Hare and Midway.

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Megan Hickey