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Call center staff worries about safety with crammed workspaces, no sanitizer

Crammed workspaces and empty hand sanitizer dispensers are causing concern for several workers at Las Vegas-area call center Everise CX.

Employees still went into work as of Tuesday, Everise CX worker June Johnson told the Review-Journal; however, the Clark County’s Business License Department said the call center was instructed to close. Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin did not respond to a request for additional details, including when the call center was instructed to close.

The company said Tuesday evening officials have visited the Las Vegas facility did not ask the company to close.

“We are deemed a ‘mission-critical vendor’ for our clients as part of Healthcare and Public Health Critical Infrastructure Sector, as defined by the department of Homeland

Security,” the company said in a statement. “Our goal is to do all we can to keep both our employees and customers healthy and safe during this unprecedented time.”

On Saturday, Gov. Steve Sisolak mandated that nonessential businesses stop operating in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. At least 11 nonessential businesses have been shut down by Clark County’s Business License Department, while at least 60 businesses voluntarily complied with the emergency order.

“I’m not sure if call centers are considered essential or nonessential because we’re just handling technical support for income tax filers,” she said, adding that she works with H&R Block. “(I) listen to the recorded calls, so that can be done from home without a problem. We’re all in this little room where we couldn’t be more than two feet apart.”

Representatives for H&R Block said they were not available to comment.

Johnson said she stopped going to work Thursday after expressing concerns about an unsafe work environment to her supervisor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has encouraged social distancing as a way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Worker William Reed said he also stopped going into the office last week after voicing his concerns with human resources over what he saw as an unsafe work environment.

“We had no hand sanitizer in the building,” he said. “There’s probably a bottle people brought, but they ran out of hand sanitizer. I started laying out the concerns (to human resources) and I essentially got interrupted and shot down.”

Worker Lashone Knox said she tried to meet with HR about the office not having hand sanitizer, among other issues, but was told “to resign or go home.” She said she was told that if she chose to go home, she would not receive pay.

“We are working around the clock to provide the majority of our employees with the hardware and training needed to work from home and expect to have 70 percent working at home by Friday (March 27). Those agents who are unable to work from their homes will be physically redistributed throughout our Las Vegas facility in a way that complies with social distancing guidelines of six to nine feet,” the company said in the statement. “While the arrangements are being made for employees to work at home, we are following the most current guidelines provided by the World Health Organization, CDC, and OSHA, as well as federal, state and local authorities to mitigate the risks to our on-site employees.”

Call centers

Other call centers operating in Las Vegas said they are practicing the safety measures recommended by local health authorities as well as the CDC and World Health Organization, though it’s unclear if those call centers have also been deemed nonessential by the county.

According to data from the Nevada Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation, there were about 15,544 workers in the telemarketing industry in the state as of 2018, the most recent data available.

Alorica said in a statement Monday it has made efforts to provide employees a safe work environment such as cleaning door handles, vending machines and bathrooms. It also has restricted nonessential visitors to its office and practices “social distancing whenever possible.”

“We are also quickly transitioning eligible employees to a temporary work-at-home model wherever we can,” according to the company. “We will continue to be vigilant and proactive as we adapt in real time to evolving circumstances for our employees and customers during these unprecedented times.”

Sitel Group said it also has transitioned some employees to work from home “where appropriate and where possible.”

For those still heading into the office, the company said it has restructured workspaces to allow for social distancing and limited outside visitors to only approved “business-critical occurrences.”

Those working at Wawanesa Insurance’s call center were told to work from home Friday, the company said.

“We made sure every employee received full compensation for the day they were sent home as well as all of the time it may have taken for employees to set up their workstations at home,” according to a company statement. “For the few employees who are not able to work from home, we have allowed them to come into the office and have ensured they work in an environment that follows strict social distancing guidelines, with hand sanitizer and disinfectant made readily available for their use.”

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Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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