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.

Filed Under: coronavirus, covid-19, efficiency, health and safety, remote work, tom rutledge, work from home
Companies: charter communications


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Mar 2020 @ 6:05am

    Charter faces strong competition on the corporate side of the Asshole of the Year awards. A leading front-runner emerged this week when GameStop declared it was “essential retail” and kept its stores open.


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