As Charter Communications grapples with its work from home policy for its employees, more than 230 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to The New York Times.
Citing an unnamed source, The New York Times reported that Charter, which uses its Spectrum branding for its triple play services, has required thousands of its employees to work in offices and call centers instead of from their homes. Of the 230 employees that tested positive for COVID-19, about half worked in the cable operator's offices or call centers. The New York Times also said that at least two of Spectrum's field technicians have died.
Last month, a Charter systems engineer based in Denver challenged the company’s executives over its refusal to let office employees work from home (WFH) during the coronavirus pandemic. Nick Wheeler sent an email on March 13 to a senior vice president and hundreds of employees saying: “Coming into the office now is pointlessly reckless. It’s also socially irresponsible,” according to TechCrunch, which first reported the news. Following his dust-up with management, Wheeler resigned from his job at Charter.
“Over the past three weeks, we have dramatically reduced the number of employees going into the field or into the office while maintaining the efficacy of our business operations that is so critical to fighting this pandemic," a Charter spokesperson said in an email to FierceTelecom Wednesday morning. "We have also announced a variety of enhanced benefits to help alleviate employees' concerns while still being able to meet the elevated needs of our customers and businesses across the country during the crisis.
"The significant majority of our office and call center employees across the company are working remotely.”
Charter has 95,000 employees across the 41 states in its footprint. Of that number, about 40,000 work in offices or call centers while about 55,000 employees are field technicians or retail employees, according to The New York Times. The Charter spokesperson declined to say how many of the cable operator's employees are now working from home.
By contrast, Verizon has about 115,000 of its 135,000 employees working from home, including the bulk of its call center employees.
In response to employees' concerns, Charter has given its employees three weeks of flexible time off to use during the coronavirus pandemic. Along the same lines, AT&T has given its employees an additional four weeks of paid time off for COVID-19 related needs, and instituted new personal protection protocols.
According to The New York Times, employees can take additional days off but salaried workers have been encouraged to use that time to work remotely.
The New York attorney general's office announced on Monday that it had opened an inquiry into Stamford, Conn.-based Charter's handling of its employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
On Monday, Charter announced it wouldn't layoff or furlough any of its employees over the following 60 days. According to a story by FierceVideo, Charter also said it would increase wages for all hourly workers from $15 to $20 over the next two years with immediate increases of $1.50 an hour for frontline field and customer operations employees. Charter also announced enhanced health plans to waive the costs for diagnostic testing services and telehealth visits for 90 days.