Charter Communications is updating its work-from-home policy Thursday, following numerous reports from employees who said the company had required them to report to work in person despite the coronavirus pandemic. The company said in a statement to The Verge that it would “provide the option to work remotely to employees we believe can remain productive outside the office without endangering our obligation to provide critical services.”
The cable and internet giant said it also is providing employees an additional three weeks of paid time off “to be used for any COVID-19-related personal need” and will be developing “increased social distancing plans in our call centers and operations facilities.”
This is after at least one employee at Charter tested positive for COVID-19 and others are now worried about exposure, TechCrunch reports. According to TechCrunch, Charter management normally makes decisions on working from home on a case-by-case basis.
Charter and its subsidiary Spectrum, which have some 15,000 office-based employees nationwide, continued to discourage employees from working from home as early as this week. Gizmodo reported that employees were still working in facilities with 100 people on a floor in close proximity. The Denver Post reported an engineer in Colorado emailed company leadership to question Charter’s policy against working from home and then ended up quitting as a result.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) tweeted Thursday that it was “unconscionable” that Charter was “ignoring CDC guidelines,” adding, “It’s clear that their top priority is not the health and safety of their employees and communities.”
Internet service will prove critically important during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, with workers and students moving almost entirely online to complete work and school assignments. Along with other internet service providers and cable companies, Charter has signed the Federal Communication Commission’s Keep Americans Connected pledge, which asks companies not to terminate services for customers and waive fees incurred due to the economic impact of the coronavirus, and to open public Wi-Fi hotspots to “any American who needs them.”
Most other internet service providers have already taken steps to at least amend their work-from-home policies accordingly. Comcast said in an emailed statement to The Verge that it has “asked every employee that is able to work from home to do so,” adding that it has transitioned “thousands of customer service representatives across the country to work from home.”
AT&T took a similar approach, asking employees “in jobs that can be done from home” to do so until further notice. T-Mobile reduced staffing levels and said it would not require retail workers to be in stores, and Verizon said it was closing retail stores and expanding its work-from-home policy, too.
Update March 19th, 3:35PM ET: Charter has updated its work-from-home policy.