Court clerks say work unsafe after woman with COVID-19 symptoms refused to leave

Three Calgary courthouse staff were sent home Monday after a woman with COVID-19 symptoms showed up and now clerks are sounding the alarm about what they say are unsafe working conditions.

CBC News has spoken with four clerks from the Court of Queen's Bench and provincial court who say they don't feel safe with counters still open to the public and a steady stream of people showing up with non-urgent filings.

"We'll come to work, but shut down the counters," said one clerk.

The clerks spoke with CBC News but asked their names not be used for fear of job repercussions.

Sick woman refused to leave

Monday morning, a provincial court clerk was working at the family court counter when a woman showed up to the window demanding service. 

She admitted she was sick with COVID-19 symptoms and had been ordered to self-isolate before she shoved a bunch of papers toward the clerk.

The clerk says she got her manager involved but despite their pleas, the woman refused to leave. Eventually, sheriffs were able to get the woman out of the courthouse.

"I'm OK," said the clerk. "I was just glad that I was able to go home, and it has nothing to do with not wanting to work or anything like that. It was just more about our own safety."

Two clerks and a sheriff are now in self-isolation for two weeks.

'Stressed, angry, anxious'

Three other clerks who spoke with CBC News say they don't feel supported.

Employees who feel unsafe or have kids at home have to use vacation days to take time off. 

And even though there are very few urgent matters because filing deadlines have mostly been waived, there is a steady stream of people showing up to file non-urgent documents.

"We don't feel safe," said one employee.

At one counter, clerks estimated they opened 100 new files last Friday alone.

'What's it going to take?'

The three employees said they feel "stressed, angry and anxious."

"The government doesn't put any value on our lives," said one woman.

"What's it going to take, one of us to get sick?"

Around 2 p.m., there were people at every counter in the courthouse.

At the Queen's Bench general filing windows, there were seven people in line. 

Monday afternoon, all three levels of court issued messages on their websites, urging people to stay away from courthouses in the province.

"To protect the health and safety of the Courts' staff, all court users and the community, the Courts ask that, until further notice, members of the public not visit the courthouses in this province."

CBC News did reach out to the provincial government for comment but did not hear back.