New York AG opens inquiry into Charter’s coronavirus response


Charter Communications’s office in Newtown, Connecticut

Yvonne Hemsey | Getty Images

New York Attorney General Letitia James opened an inquiry into Charter Communications after the telecom company continued to require some employees to report to corporate offices amid government calls for employers to allow remote work where possible.

The inquiry will look into how Charter has managed its employees during the Covid-19 pandemic, a spokesperson from James’ office said.

More than 230 employees from Charter’s Spectrum division have tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus since the pandemic first reached the U.S., a person with knowledge of the company told The New York Times. The company has about 95,000 total employees, according to public filings compiled by FactSet.

The illnesses follow a March report from TechCrunch that said Charter had continued to require employees to report to offices and call centers around the country despite government guidelines to restrict gatherings of ten or more people. At the time, employees at some of those locations had already tested positive for the virus, according to the report.

A Charter spokesperson said in a statement that a “significant majority” of office and call center employees in the U.S. are now working from home. However, the spokesperson did not provide specific figures for how many people were still working in its offices.

“Over the past three weeks, we have dramatically reduced the number of employees going into the field or into the office while maintaining the efficacy of our business operations that is so critical to fighting this pandemic,” a Charter spokesperson said in a statement. “We have also announced a variety of enhanced benefits to help alleviate employees concerns while still being able to meet the elevated needs of our customers and businesses across the country during the crisis.”

Following the TechCrunch report in March, Charter said it had added three weeks paid time off for employees for “any COVID-19-related personal need.”

As a telecommunications business, Charter is generally considered an essential business, including under New York state guidelines. But government officials in Connecticut, where Charter is based, have advised that essential employees should still work from home when possible.

Last month, a Denver-based engineer sent an email to hundreds of his colleagues questioning why they should have to come into the office when their jobs could be done remotely, according to TechCrunch. The employee resigned after Charter gave him the option to either work from the office or take sick leave, TechCrunch reported. The Charter spokesperson told CNBC they don’t comment on employee matters.

The day after the employee’s resignation, March 14, Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge said in a memo to employees that about 80,000 of them had jobs that “cannot be performed effectively from home,” the Times reported. While another 14,000 employees had the ability to work remotely, “they are more effective from the office,” Rutledge wrote, according to the Times.

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