Charter Spectrum Under Fire For Putting The Public At Risk During Coronavirus

from the monopolizing-stupidity dept

Charter Communications literally has some of the worst customer satisfaction ratings of any company in any industry in America. Like Comcast, Charter has spent years merging its way to market domination, and now enjoys a notable monopoly over broadband in numerous U.S. markets. This monopoly, combined with regulatory capture, has resulted in a company that literally doesn’t have to give a damn about its customers.

As it turns out, the company doesn’t treat its employees much better.

For the last few days, both Gizmodo and TechCrunch have been fielding complaints from a torrent of Spectrum employees who say the company is putting them at unnecessary risk. Employees who say there’s no technical reason they can’t perform their work remotely have been mandated to continue coming into the office, despite CDC warnings that social distancing will be essential to slow the spread of the pandemic across the United States. Several employees sent internal memos warning all employees the company was ignoring CDC recommendations:

“The CDC guidelines are clear. The CDPHE guidelines are clear. The WHO guidelines are clear. The science of social distancing is real. We have the complete ability to do our jobs entirely from home,? he wrote, reeling off the advice from several state and federal government departments and international health organizations. ?Coming into the office now is pointlessly reckless. It?s also socially irresponsible. Charter, like the rest of us, should do what is necessary to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. Social distancing has a real slowing effect on the virus ? that means lives can be saved.”

But employees who are raising alarm bells that Charter is putting lives at risk are being told to take sick leave or quit:

“Wheeler said he was given an ultimatum. Either he could work from the office or take sick leave. Staff are not allowed to work from home, he was told. Wheeler offered his resignation, but was sent home instead and asked to think about his decision until Monday.

Later in the day, he received a call from work. Charter accepted his resignation, effective immediately.”

In some instances, staff are being told to report to work despite positive COVID-19 tests being found at Charter offices. At the heart of the problem is Charter CEO (and formerly Comcast executive) Tom Rutledge, who, much like his belief that streaming password sharing is the biggest problem facing the industry at the moment, doesn’t think much of this whole modern telework thing:

“The employees we spoke to said that while Charter has the means to allow staff to work from home, executives are reluctant to relax the policy. Charter chief executive Tom Rutledge said in an internal email to staff this week that employees are ?more effective from the office.”

The same monopoly mindset — in which the reality on the ground doesn’t, can’t, and won’t matter because there’s no organic or regulatory penalty for bad behavior — is certainly evident in the way Charter treats its employees. Though it’s not just monopoly power, given that Comcast is not only letting its employees work from home but is doling out hazard pay. Which means at the end of the day it comes down to terrible management, and an unwillingness to listen to your own employees, and a top down failure in leadership that’s literally now putting human lives at risk. Not just those of Charter employees, but, given the symptomless transmission evident in COVID-19, everybody in the regions that Charter does business.

Update: It sounds like Charter may finally be getting the message.

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Companies: charter communications

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Comments on “Charter Spectrum Under Fire For Putting The Public At Risk During Coronavirus”

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36 Comments
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That One Guy (profile) says:

One of the few contests you never want to win...

‘Biggest Asshole of the Year’ is really not a contest you want to win, but damn if people aren’t stepping up and doing their hardest to do so during this pandemic, and with priorities like this I am not in any way surprised that Charter consistently earns the contempt and disgust that it does.

David says:

Makes perfect business sense.

Remember: you only need to pay surviving employees, so having them work more effectively in offices with a few hundreds ending up dead still gives you more bang for the buck.

At some point of time, Americans should really rethink whether capitalism is the answer to everything. Until they do, acting all up because it is more cost-effective to let a few employees die is hypocritical.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Makes perfect business sense.

In a democracy, the majority’s governing choices are representative of the whole. If the majority acts prefers to act like idiots, it is the job of the sane minority to step up education.

It the minorities stay in their respective bubbles and don’t talk to the majorities, insanity will maintain its rule.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Makes perfect business sense.

1) there are no democracies, only some that pretend to be
2) the majority over rules the whole, it does not represent anyone
3) in the us, it is the minority that is in control at present, they are screwing up big time and they do not believe in education
4) in the us, the majority are sane but have no voice, the batshit crazy are in charge

just sayin

Anonymous Coward says:

But employees who are raising alarm bells that Charter is putting lives at risk are being told to take sick leave or quit

The sending of emails to co-workers and management about this seems like a textbook definition of protected concerted activity, and Charter’s retaliation could get them into serious trouble. It doesn’t matter that the people resigned rather than getting fired or laid off, if they felt they had no choice.

David says:

Re: Re:

It doesn’t matter that the people resigned rather than getting fired or laid off, if they felt they had no choice.

Of course it does. If they feel they have no choice because otherwise they’d be forced to work with gays, condemning their soul to hell, they can resign all they want to.

Their subjective feeling does not count. Only objective evaluations of the situation have a chance to stand up in court. At the current point of time, the recommendations of the institutes are more a matter of patriotism and civic and family responsibility rather than of personal safety to follow for working people in good health.

There is no question that Charter is acting f***ed up and irresponsibly here, but then it’s not exactly out of character for them, even if this now is about employee safety.

It will be hard for the courts to untangle this kind of shit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

OK, it’s not just based on their feelings—they’d have to show that a reasonable person would consider Chater to be pushing them out. But if Charter asks for your resignation because you sent an email trying to improve your working conditions, or because you refused dangerous work as allowed by OSHA, you’ll still have a good case against them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Time for a Labor Strike

I think there are times when employees need to MAKE management understand that the company WILL NOT function without them. This pandemic is one of those times. I would be all in favor of having the employee base take a consolidated one day “leave” to make the point. If they do it together, it would build a sense of community among the workers and show management that they can’t bully people around when LIVES are on the line. We should always remember that there are more of us than them. We can’t let them walk all over us unless we lie down. Shame on them.

Charter Manager says:

Charter hasn’t gotten the memo. Agents have to “prove” via an email to us that they or someone they care for is at risk, despite CDC recommendations. Desk sharing still exists in certain locations, and leadership is not allowed to work from home as part of setting an example, despite the fact that agents and management alike have the resources available to work from home. Response time for WFH approval is delayed at best, in most cases site VP’s are delaying their responses to await approval from corporate. It’s going to take federal law, employees dying, or bigger news outlets to get Tom to move aside and actually allow us to be “effective” and responsible by working from home.

Charter Employee (profile) says:

Charter Positive Tests

Charter still doesn’t get it or give a shit about it’s employees. Friday an employee had been found to have symptoms in the Corporate Headquarters in Stamford. They sent the employees home that work on the same floor but the rest of the building still had to work. Yet they continue to get off scott free!!!! I for one will be suing.

driftaway (profile) says:

Charter Employee

CEO Tom is either smoking crack or off his meds if he thinks people are more effective from the office right now. He has created a hostile work environment where everybody is trying to figure out who may have the virus. People are being shunned because they have allergies and it has turned into a very uncomfortable place that makes it hard to get any work done. All we can do about it is get our affairs in order and make sure we print the memos and e-mails and screen shot the ability to work from so our families will have them to sue the hell out of charter. I’m over 60 with diabetes and chronic bronchitis. My chances of dying from this virus are very real. What Charter is doing should be criminal. Imagine the CEO in a jail cell with someone who is waiting for their test results to come back while sneezing on him. He’s old and expendable, right? Of course his $8.7 million yearly salary will have him out within an hour. Maybe could plead insanity and get the meds he obviously needs.

SSWRN says:

Re: Charter Employee

I joined Charter in Jan 06,2020.
I resigned on Feb 27, 2020.

While i was paid more than the place i used to work, i found the culture to be very restrictive and innovative thinking is not encouraged.
I had to leave after i found that i was loosing confidence in myself and would always look at my manager for approval. I came from public accounting where responsible for really sensitive and sometimes classified projects.

Then i joined charter and had a manager that would proof read my emails before i sent them out. I was made to understand that i had to deference the VPs and directors and i can’t work from home.

Well, on the night of Feb 27th, i decided to resign on the spot. Felt bad walking away from the benefits but i’d rather make 50% less with my confidence and sanity than be at a place like charter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is absolutely true! Charter still requires their non-essential employees to go into work. You have to get approval to work from home and “a pandemic” is not reason enough. When you do get approved to work from home, they only give you 2 weeks. 2 WEEKS!!! Where did they pull this number from??!!?

Current employee says:

It’s all a lie, still forcing people into the office. The company doesn’t have info structure to allow working from home for all 95k employees. The company got caught with their pants down. It’s only a matter of time until the whole company or leadership gets sick. Then the tumble will start, stock price and customer complaints will bring the company down.

Anonymous Coward says:

How come no one is talking about the field techs

How come no one is talking about the field techs who are still going to peoples houses with no type of PPE for protection and are being exposed daily and harassed to complete 70 points per day. Putting themselves and there family at risk. The truth about it is that they are waiting for someone to die to take action. This has to be illegal. This company is taking no precaution for the techs out In the field and are sending them full force with lo type of protection. The fact is whoever is in charge drop the ball and this company was not ready at all to what is to come. I’m very worried of what might happen to us if we keep getting sent out there with this current situation. What are we suppose to do as technicians. New York

Crazytimes (profile) says:

Re: How come no one is talking about the field techs

I was just talking about this! They are still having techs and direct sales reps going to homes. How insane is that? It’s really sad. Tell me how a door to door salesmen is essential for helping anyone in this crisis?! IF it is necessary to have a tech out for an emergency I would certainly hope they would be provided the correct equipment to be protected and be compensated for the extra risk involved.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How come no one is talking about the field techs

Absolutely Not no mask, no gloves, no sanitizer. I understand that we need to provide this service so that people could access the news and information that going out but at least send us out with some type of protection. They are still sending us out for installation instead of letting us service the ones that have no services working. We was told that customer care was asking a series of questions to the customer. I actually confirmed with the customers and they are not being asked any questions about this virus before the calls are booked. As for being compensated for the extra risk not at all. We are risking our lives out there for this company and I don’t see how they are even trying to prevent us from getting sick. A email stating wash your hands and keep your distance is not enough.

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

Agreed! How come no one is talking about the field techs

What I would like to know is why no one is talking about the technicians who are out there in the field every day going in peoples homes. And instead of charter limiting jobs to those most important/essential they are increasing the jobs by offering free internet to people with kids out of school. Kids will survive being home without school/internet for a few months, these techs shouldn’t be sent out doing unnecessary jobs. Charter/spectrum should be doing something in the way of screening calls for importance, not “my remote is not working” or “I can’t get Netflix to work” and definitely not new installs, seriously?! I am so disappointed and appalled at charter communications for their lack of care and concern for their employees and customers alike.

Slavestrum (profile) says:

Free internet

Now there is a spectrum tech that infected a mother and two kids. She was told that spectrum is checking employees daily which is a lie. I don’t know about you’ll but customer refuse to stay 6ft and even 3ft away. We are boxed in a home we cant run or jump out a window. Read the article on the spectrum tech infecting the customer our company quickly points the blame on the tech. We are doing ridiculous jobs right now they dont care about us.

Johnnyimac says:

Charter Endangers Customers and their Technicians

Charter is known as Ghetto or Slumlord Cable because of their total disregard for customers and employees.

Instead of limiting exposing customers during COVID, they required additional unnecessary tests (pressure test) with the technicians meters. Technicians already do a leakage test of signal for ingress or egress. Multiple entries into homes caused the customers to be unnecessarily exposed to COVID, as well as the technicians. All customers and technicians should sue Charter Cable if they came down with COVID, and especially if anyone died from this exposure, after the visit from Charter’s employees. Killing people should not be company policy.

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