Vast swathes of the US are under lockdown and isolation, and the company is recommending the majority of the workforce to work from home to combat the spreading of coronavirus. However, an e-mail from an engineer of Charter Communications, one of the largest internet and phone companies of the US, has become news.
The e-mail sent by Nick Wheeler on Friday, March 13, to a senior vice-president and hundreds of engineers of the company lambasted the company for not allowing its staff to work from home. Most tech companies have taken this measure to slow down the spread of the virus and combat the pandemic.
He wrote a short and crisp message that expressed his anguish as he failed to understand why he was coming to office amid the surging menace of coronavirus surrounding all. He went on to write that despite clear guidelines of WHO, CDC, and CDPHE that emphasize the need to stay isolated through measures of social distancing and the employees having the ability to work from home, coming to office was simply a reckless act. Moreover, it is a blatant show of social irresponsibility. He prevailed upon Charter to do, like many others, whatever necessary to reduce the spread of coronavirus. He stressed upon social distancing that proved effective in slowing down the virus and save lives.
Wheeler questioned if hazard condition for the infrastructure is unacceptable in the long term, why should it be acceptable for employee health.
Soon after Wheeler shot off the e-mail, he was summoned to the office of a vice-president to attend a conference call with human resources. During the conversation, he found himself at the receiving end as the management considered his e-mail could incite fear and described it as irresponsible. However, he was still at a loss what prevented Charter to implement work from home policy when the coronavirus outbreak turned into a pandemic.
Wheeler was given an ultimatum – staff is not allowed to work from home. He could either work from the office or take sick leave. Wheeler offered to resign but was sent home and asked to review his decision until Monday. Later, the Charter called him up to confirm acceptance of his resignation.
Focus on social distancing
The same day when Charter accepted Wheeler’s resignation, the San Francisco Area was under lockdown, and the administration of Denver, where Wheeler lives, and New York announced the closure of restaurants and bars and banned gathering of more than 50 people to limit the spread of the virus. Soon after, White House advised limiting the gathering to 10 people and that the people of America should continue practicing social distancing.
Wheeler raised the question again that if he, as an individual, can understand the human context of the measure, he failed to understand what prevents Charter from doing it at a larger level.
A spokesperson of the Charter clarified that the company does not discuss the circumstances of individual employees. However, the company was reviewing its business continuity plan as conditions are rapidly changing.