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
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Mar 2020 @ 3:45am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Bobvious, 20 Mar 2020 @ 5:55am

    more INFECTIVE, Tom. more INFECTIVE. IN FEC TIVE

    Charter chief executive Tom Rutledge said in an internal email to staff this week that employees are “more effective from the office."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 7:15am

    I smell a class action law suit with some combination of the words; knowingly, willfully, recklessly, endangerment of life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Mar 2020 @ 7:18am

    Focus, your not fulfilling my priorities

    Tom Rutledge makes it clear that his number one priority is Tom Rutledge's pockets in yet another slimy way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 20 Mar 2020 @ 8:30am

    Being sick and/or dead is more effective than teleworking, you say? If only your employees had access to decent internet connections.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    David, 20 Mar 2020 @ 8:47am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    TFG, 20 Mar 2020 @ 8:57am

    Re: Makes perfect business sense.

    You assume a monolithic ideological support of capitalism on the part of everyone. This is not an accurate assumption.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 9:22am

    Rutledge is a flaming sp(R)ectrum.
    He has always hated the work from home concept.
    Put him and his family in a cube in one of those infected call centers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 10:21am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 11:17am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    David, 20 Mar 2020 @ 11:25am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 11:27am

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 11:50am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 12:17pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Who Cares (profile), 20 Mar 2020 @ 12:43pm

    Even Comcast thinks

    that these guys are evil.
    Got to say that they got the message and have been telling their people to work at home if possible including special teams to get their call center people setup so they can work from him.

    Not often that Comcast does the right thing but this time they did.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 5:50pm

    Some corporations have permeated into this life on earth the way a smelly bathroom odor creeps out into the hall, down the stairs and into the kitchen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2020 @ 8:27pm

    Hazard Pay

    Applause for Comcast treating their employees right, Wow! Cable is making their employees work just like Charter :( so sad

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Charter Manager, 20 Mar 2020 @ 9:43pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Charter Employee (profile), 21 Mar 2020 @ 5:19am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    driftaway (profile), 21 Mar 2020 @ 5:29am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2020 @ 6:59pm

    Charter seems to be telling the press that it's back office staff is now working from home, this is NOT TRUE. The no work from home policy is still in place and employees are still expected to show up for their desk jobs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    alternatives(), 22 Mar 2020 @ 6:28am

    Charter made big stink about remote....

    after the Time Warnet buyout who bought out Aldephia the workers who were remote from Aldephia were given Move to Denver or GTFO.

    The managers who pushed the Denver consolidation don't want to confront the ego involved with that decision.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    SSWRN, 22 Mar 2020 @ 12:14pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Current employee, 22 Mar 2020 @ 6:11pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous, 22 Mar 2020 @ 9:52pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Crazytimes (profile), 22 Mar 2020 @ 11:46pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2020 @ 8:49am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Heated, 25 Mar 2020 @ 9:43am

    Spectrum is still sending its' field salesman door-to-door to make sales, because they care more about making sales, than employee or public health.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 5:38pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 8:12pm

    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??!!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 4:32am

    As of 4/1, Even though there is the ability for support depts to shelter in place and work from home, you are expected to be on the office.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. icon
    Slavestrum (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:52pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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