January 25, 2016 | by Evan Lambert | Fox 13 News
CLEARWATER (FOX 13) – Former and current workers at 24-7 Intouch, a Clearwater customer service call center, say they’ve been working for a week while the business deals with a bed bug problem.
The company handles customer service calls for major brands like Netflix, Walmart, and Airbnb.
Jeff Fettes, chief operating officer, tells FOX 13 employees did spot several dead bed bugs on January 14. He calls the incident isolated and says the business is not infested. But employees say they’ve seen live bed bugs near air vents and on furniture as recently as Saturday.
Fettes says the company has hired several pest control companies to treat the building.
Employees say they are uncomfortable with the working conditions. They describe several workers dealing with repeated bites. Many fear speaking up about the issue will lead them to lose their jobs.
“I feel bad for the people that still have to go to work and then if they are allowed to go home it’s without pay. So if you’re a single person and you’re the sole income you have no choice,” said Celeste Smith, a former worker.
One current worker, who asked not to be identified, said many of her coworkers continue to work because they worry if they complain they’ll be punished by managers.
“One of my friends actually had to go to the emergency room for getting so many bites on one of his legs,” she said.
Fettes says 24-7 Intouch is allowing workers to go home if they feel unsafe. He says the company is advising workers on how to reduce the risk of spreading bed bugs while the company continues to investigate the issue.
According to Fettes, several workers have made complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He says 24-7 Intouch has responded to the complaints by provide documents it is handling the problem.