“Just as we might have friends or family with views that are the polar opposite of our own, the same can be expected of the workplace,” said Katie Brennan, an adviser at the Society for Human Resource Management, an advocacy group. Be prepared for potential conflict, she said, because feeling safe or comfortable at work “isn’t something that most people are willing to compromise.”

Lori Webb, 61, has butted heads over coronavirus with a colleague at the Salt Lake City manufacturing plant where they work. This person told her that he doesn’t think it’s a big deal, Ms. Webb said, and she disagrees. She worries that her colleague’s stance means he doesn’t practice social distancing while off the clock and is jeopardizing her health and that of her 86-year-old mother, with whom she lives. “I don’t want to bring anything home,” Ms. Webb said.

For the most part, employees have no legal recourse against colleagues who they feel aren’t doing enough—or the opposite, going overboard—to prevent the spread of the pathogen, said Stanford Law School professor Alison Morantz. But that could change, given that the pandemic is an unprecedented modern-day event. “Maybe new state laws or creative legal theories will emerge,” she said. “This is uncharted territory.”