October 13, 2015
CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Emilia Clark could feel her throat tighten as soon as she entered the iQor call center in Depew where she works, “It was like someone kind of just choking you.”
It was last August, and Clark would learn the call center on Dick Road had just been fumigated. The office was infested with bedbugs, and Emilia believes she is allergic to chemicals in the pesticide used to control the tiny blood-sucking insects.
The reaction sent Emilia to the hospital, and after being checked out, her doctor sent a letter saying she cannot be exposed to the chemicals without the protection of a respiratory mask.
“They either had to put me somewhere where they had not sprayed, or is not spraying, or they had to provide me with a respiratory mask. They refused to give that to me. They told me that I would have to get it.”
Emilia’s aunt, Elizabeth Hangen said some of the spraying has taken place while workers were still in the office, and believes a little advance notice could make iQor a safer place.
“They should talk to the employees to see if there is anybody allergic to any of these pesticides that is being sprayed before they spray while they are there, or close the place.”
Many of the workers at iQor’s call center have been ordered to have their homes inspected for bedbugs, and if they have bugs, they have to pay out of pocket to have their homes fumigated, but workers don’t believe iQor’s plan of attack will solve the problem.
Charles Everhart doubts the strategy will work because office equipment, such as cloth covered chairs could be harborages for the bedbugs, and they not being removed from the call center.
“We sit in cubicles that have the cloth walls. It was stated that they could hide anywhere–in the cracks of the chairs. I could pick one up tomorrow if I go there.”
Clark said that is forcing workers to extremes, “They are trying to protect themselves by putting garbage bags on their chairs, on their keyboards.”
Because of her medical condition, Emilia said she can’t go back to work until the spraying is over.
“You think that you are going to be working in a place that is going to make sure that things are safe for you, and as a company they should make sure their employees are safe, and then when problems arise, they should take care of those problems instead of letting their employees fend for themselves.”
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did write up the company in response to complaints about the pesticide, which several employees told us, was applied while they were still in the office.
iQor released the following statement to News 4 Tuesday night:
“iQor values the the health and safety of our employees. Their comfort and the physical environment in which they work has always been a priority. iQor appreciates the opportunity to address recent reports to the contrary.
Similar to other companies and schools in the region and across the nation, iQor has taken preemptive measures to ensure our facility in Depew, New York remains free of pests. Despite reports to the contrary, the remedial actions we took were after hours and in accordance with applicable law. They were also were communicated to and coordinated with employees, including those with pre-existing medical conditions.
iQor also asked a select group of our employees to participate in a home inspection. Every attempt was made to schedule these sessions during non-working hours. iQor is providing remuneration to those employees who need to address potential infestations in their homes.
iQor remains committed to rectifying this situation as soon as possible and would encourage any other affected employee to contact his or her supervisor or iQor’s Human Resources team for additional assistance.”