In an internal email sent Saturday night, Epic’s leadership told employees that they were welcome to continue working from home if they felt uncomfortable returning to campus. According to the Cap Times, employees have until Wednesday to notify the company of their plans to continue working from home.
Today was going to mark Phase One of the company’s return to its Verona campus. The phased reopening would have concluded September 21st, when most of Epic’s almost 10,000 employees would have been back working on campus.
About thirty percent of employees have continued working in-person at the Epic campus throughout the pandemic.
Last Friday, a coalition of Dane County Board Supervisors published an open letter asking for clarification from Public Health Madison Dane County on how the department has coordinated with Epic on the reopening.
Supervisor Yogesh Chawla, who represents parts of Madison’s east side, was one of fifteen Supervisors who signed on to the letter. He says several constituents have reached out with concerns over Epic’s plans — particularly, the company’s requirement that absences must be cleared by human resources.
“One big concern we have is that employees are able to opt out of returning to campus in phase one, however the process they have to adhere to is different than the original process,” he said. “They have to meet one-on-one with human resources, whereas before they just had to fill out a form to do so…We also want to make sure that employees who opt out of returning to campus, that that doesn’t affect their employment situation.”
Mike Bare represents Verona, and the Epic Campus, on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. Bare cosigned Friday’s letter, but says that overall the company is handling the reopening process well.
“I think that they’ve been thoughtful on this policy and they’re trying to do what they need to do to make their business work,” he says. “I think they are looking at things in the right way and they’re working closely with the Public Health department to review their plans and develop plans that would keep everybody safe going forward.”
The Supervisors’ open letter came one day after another open letter from Dane County Public Health Services Supervisor Bonnie Koenig to Epic’s Chief Administrative Officer, Sverre Roang.
In the letter, Koenig wrote that Public Health Madison Dane County had received a number of complaints from Epic employees alleging that the company would be violating Dane County Emergency Orders if they followed through with plans to return employees to campus.
Under section 4f of Dane County Emergency Order Number Eight, businesses are ordered to limit operations to remote work to “the greatest extent possible.”
In an internal email sent to employees last week, Epic Founder and CEO Judy Faulkner, along with other members of Epic’s leadership team, wrote that the company had been working closely with Public Health to ensure the agency was aware of their return plans.
But, Koenig writes that Epic had an incorrect picture of “remote work” and that the company believed that allowing employees to work alone in their office was working remotely. That interpretation is incorrect.
Public Health Madison Dane County hasn’t taken any formal action against Epic yet. Koenig writes that, since the company hasn’t returned its full staff to campus, it hasn’t actually broken the Emergency Order.
But the department has requested clarification on why Epic feels employees can’t keep working remotely. A Public Health spokesperson declined to comment further on this story, but did say discussions with Epic on their reopening plan are ongoing.