Despite recommendations, IT workers at Blue Hen Corporate Center must come to the office

Bayhealth information technology workers say their employer is unnecessarily exposing them to potential illness by refusing to allow them to work from home.

Most of the IT employees work in offices at the Blue Hen Corporate Center in Dover.

“I am an employee of IT, a department of approximately 150 people in Dover that support the Kent and Sussex campuses,” said an employee who did not wish to be identified in order to protect their job. “The majority of our employees can perform our jobs 100% remotely and despite many employee attempts to persuade management, executive management refuses to allow us to do so. They are continuing to require us to come to work in one large room of cubicles, exposing us and our families to the dangers of COVID.”

More than one employee has submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Some departments are not safe to work in during the pandemic because social distancing cannot be effective due to current set up of cubicles and the amount of people in the office,” said another Bayhealth IT employee who wished to remain anonymous. “They will not consider schedule changes either to keep employee distancing. Not only are they not keeping employees safe, they are unnecessarily putting us at risk and ignoring local and federal government guidelines for social distancing, which is irresponsible and negligent.”

Bayhealth representatives would not comment on the employees working at the Blue Hen Corporate Center.

According to the Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Public Health, “all employees who are able to work from home should be working from home at this time.”

“Bayhealth continues to follow our policies and the advice/guidelines of state and local governments and the CDC. We have no further comment,” said Bayhealth Marketing Communications Assistant Vice President Pamela Marecki.

The division also recommends:

• Maximizing telework, especially for individuals at highest risk of poor outcomes, such as over age 60 or with chronic underlying conditions.

• Following all state and CDC guidelines and recommendations for social distancing for staff. Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (six feet or two meters) from others when possible.

• Screening all staff for symptoms and illness prior to entering worksite.

On March 25, Bayhealth conducted a “stress test” by having the IT employees work from home for the day. The purpose was to test the strength of network bandwidth with employees working remotely.

“We were told there was a slight uptick in traffic, as expected, but [the network] performed without issue,” an employee said.

There has since been no change in the work-from-home policy, according to multiple employees who contacted the Dover Post.

The employees are concerned that, should their office suffer a COVID-19 outbreak, the company’s hospitals would lose all technical support.

“We understand that we are essential, and collectively we are worried not only about our own well-being, but also about the safety of the hospital and its patients in the event that COVID sweeps through our department. There would be no one left to support the hospitals,” an employee said.