There have been reports that all VRS providers have taken initiative and sent all their employees home, except for ZP Better Together, LLC. (the merger of Purple and ZVRS).
A few weeks ago, Chris Wagner, ZP Better Together’s Chief Operating Officer, took the time to meet with his Customer Care staff separately for each of the three branch locations–Rocklin (CA), Austin (TX), and Clearwater (FL). Wagner told Customer Care staff that ZP Better Together valued their employees and wanted to ensure that if employees were worried about their health and safety at work or were feeling ill, they could submit a request to work from home with their direct supervisor or the Human Resources department. Customer Care staff left the meetings feeling reassured that their needs would be met.
The following week, a few employees were seen coughing across at least two of the three locations. Some Customer Care employees raised concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic with either their supervisor or the Human Resources department, indicating their preferences to work from home. Their concerns were dismissed. To make matters worse, employees were having to use their own personal cleaning supplies for their workstations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s [OSHA] Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 shows that not only are employers required to provide cleaning supplies for employee use at the facilities, employers are also to ensure that the workplace is cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized regularly (including bathrooms and common areas). Employers were encouraged to send employees home if they were exhibiting possible COVID-19 symptoms. To the best of Deaf Vee Journal’s knowledge, ZP Better Together has not been consistent in fulfilling the above-stated obligations.
Last week, ZP Better Together demonstrated some interest in sending Customer Care staff home only to later backtrack, which coincided with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s [CDC] announcement that “under 100,000 deaths” were expected. All IT and Sales department staff, nearly all Human Resources staff, and most other management staff had already been sent home to work weeks earlier. The COVID-19 peak has not even hit yet for all three states, and it is not easy to predict with accuracy when the peak will happen. Some public health experts assert that we would also need to stay home for at least a month after the peak in order to avoid the curve from going back up. Under best scenario projections, we will not be out of the woods until early to mid-June.
To add insult to injury, ZP Better Together put together an online COVID-19 resource center for their customers and released a public video emphasizing how much they care about their customers: “Your health and safety are important to us! This video includes taking appropriate measures to safeguard not only our well-being and our loved ones, but also our communities.” ZP Better Together even went so far as to upload a March 30 post on Facebook featuring 24 of their employees pictured at home with their pets, which also said: “We are all in this together, and we are here for you.” (See the screenshot.)
Here for their customers, but not really here for their Customer Care team who bust their behinds to resolve account/technical issues just so Deaf users can have telecommunication access? ZP Better Together already had a Work from Home program for VRS interpreters before all this started, so they were ahead of the game and profiting quite handsomely from it while Sorenson, Convo and other VRS providers had to scramble and play catch up. This is how they treat their frontline customer care employees in what is the first of several possible waves of a pandemic.
Deaf Vee Journal sent a message to Wagner and Sherri Turpin, ZP Better Together’s Chief Executive Officer, to ask them about any upcoming plans they may have to maintain the safety and health of their staff. As of Sunday, April 12 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, there has been no response from either party.