The healthcare software company is no longer allowing employees to work from home, and is reportedly demoting some workers for speaking out.
Epic Systems, the multibillion-dollar healthcare Verona-based software company, is forcing more than 9,000 employees to return to in-person work at the company headquarters despite the current surge in the coronavirus pandemic in Wisconsin and has reportedly retaliated against employees who vocally opposed the decision.
Workers will be required to return starting Sept. 21, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which first reported the news on Tuesday. About two-thirds of employees have been working from home during the pandemic, according to the Journal Sentinel. All employees must return by Nov. 2, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
“It’s been feeling like employee health isn’t being considered,” one employee told the Wisconsin State Journal Tuesday. “We’ve been told it’s about the culture. It makes us feel very disposable.”
Some managers have already been demoted for voicing opposition to the plan to return to work, according to 13 of the 26 employees interviewed Tuesday by The Cap Times. Employees told the paper the company is engaged in “an ongoing effort to control and monitor staff dissent and responses to management decisions.”
More than 400 workers responded to an internal employee-created survey at the company, and 89 percent were unhappy with the company’s coronavirus response, while 56 percent said they were not comfortable returning to campus, The Cap Times reported.
Epic Systems, owned by liberal billionaire Judy Faulkner, defended the decision in a statement to the Journal Sentinel, saying “results are much better and faster when staff are able to collaborate on new and creative ideas during in-person brainstorming sessions compared to over the phone or video conference.”
In an email to company staff obtained by WPR, Faulkner said employees are “heroes” but pressured them to come back to the office because “staff who have returned to campus say there are many reasons why working at Epic is better.”
Employees told WPR there is no evidence the company has been less successful during the pandemic. Faulkner’s net worth had increased by $1.3 billion during the pandemic as of July 1.
A company spokeswoman told Cap Times Wednesday that forcing employees back to work “is essential to saving more lives,” apparently justifying it because the company is in the healthcare industry.
The Madison chapter of Industrial Workers of the World shot back in a statement to Cap Times.
“This is an issue that will end up affecting the entire Dane County community, not just Epic workers, as COVID-19 cannot be bounded by the Epic campus walls,” the union said.