It’s a story that makes your skin crawl: Employees claiming they were forced to work in a DeKalb County call center infested with bed bugs.
The proof was on the floors and walls – and the arms and legs of employees where they had been bitten.
The claims were serious enough that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) started investigating the Wipro Call Center. But now, we’re learning the company’s only serious violation has been dropped – even though workers tell us the call center is still infested.
OSHA and Wipro met on Wednesday where the company apparently provided some new evidence – an extermination program and the promise to continue monitoring the workplace.
So, OSHA threw out the serious violation it had originally proposed. And as you can imagine, that news isn’t sitting too well with current and former employees who reached out to us when the bed bugs first invaded the building 6 months before.
11Alive spoke with former employee Kwanita Holmes who said she was essentially forced into unemployment by the infestation.
“We’re out of work because of a situation that we could not control,” she said.
11Alive first began investigating the claims months ago. Holmes originally sent 11Alive photos of what she said was a bed bug bite on her arm.
“We’re at work 8 hours a day and we’re just getting munched on all day,” she said during one of our original interviews.
Months later, she now has her termination letter in hand. The alleged reason for her firing: violation of attendance policy.
“We had bad attendance because we did not want to be at work,” she said. “There were days that we did not want to go to work and be eaten.”
In follow-up reports, 11Alive obtained an internal memo that read, “employees who choose not to come to the office may use PTO or simply take unpaid time off.”
When the story first broke in June, 11Alive’s Chris Hopper spent an hour in the lobby waiting on the facilities manager to answer our questions.
“But I can say Wipro is doing everything that they can possibly do to make sure that, um, the place is being treated, the people are being protected,” he said.
When asked about workers still having to come in, she said we would have to speak to her management team for those answers.
Holmes said many of her former co-workers have since quit or been fired. But one who still works at Wipro said that as of 3 weeks ago the problem had not been solved.
“I do have a friend and she’s out on maternity leave,” Holmes said. “When she left, there were still bed bugs.”
11Alive has asked Wipro for a comment on the OSHA settlement and whether the company does still have a bed bug infestation. Their response was:
“We take the health and safety of our employees extremely seriously and have necessary precautionary measures in place to ensure the workplace is safe and secure. The company will continue to comply with the prescribed guidelines detailed by the local administration.”