Dish, the parent company of popular streaming service Sling TV, is reportedly pressuring employees to return to their offices despite employee concerns over the current covid-19 crisis—and despite two deaths and dozens of presumed positive cases within the company. Dish, meanwhile, is framing the move as a kind of necessary evil by characterizing itself as a “critical and essential business.”
Dish has asked employees to report in-person to their jobs, a request evidently influenced by the company’s failure to meet its targets, the Daily Beast reported Friday, citing an obtained readout from a virtual meeting last week. According to the Daily Beast, “hundreds” of Dish and Sling employees have reported to their offices in recent months, including at the company’s headquarters Colorado as well as at its facilities in Utah—a move apparently meant to facilitate more collaboration among employees.
The Daily Beast reported that the meeting followed two probable positive cases of covid-19 at one of these facilities, an incident that Dish allegedly failed to inform employees of. Moreover, the outlet said it was during the virtual meeting that the company admitted that there had been roughly 80 suspected positive cases among its total workforce and that two employees who became infected with covid-19 had died.
Pressuring employees to return to work even as employee positive cases stack up is alarming all on its own. But given the situation in Utah, in particular—where 863 confirmed cases and six deaths were reported Friday—a demand to return to the office is particularly reckless, especially in cases where employees are capable of performing their jobs at home. Earlier this year, Charter Communications similarly pressured employees to return to the office, a spineless decision that resulted in outbreaks among its employees.
Reached for comment about the report, a spokesperson for Dish told Gizmodo by email that the 80 cases were “presumptive positive” and said that it’s “important to note that the majority of these 80 instances are among team members who have been working from home since the early days of COVID (March), and did not come into contact with any other team members.” The company confirmed the two cases at its headquarters but did not respond to a request for comment about whether it failed to inform employees of these cases.
“While a portion of our team members who meet the criteria described above have returned to our sites, the majority of our corporate employees continue to work from home,” the spokesperson said. “Although additional employees could benefit from a return to our sites, we continue to strictly limit the number of employees who are allowed to return in order to comply with social distancing requirements. In addition, we support work from home accommodations for employees who are in vulnerable populations, live with those who are vulnerable, and those who have childcare needs.”
But according to the Daily Beast, Dish “has completely balked at allowing some employees who feel apprehensive or scared of the workplace environment to simply continue working at home.” The company did not respond to requests for comment about the two reported covid-19-related deaths among its employees.
Like other companies who have asked employees to jeopardize the health and safety of not only themselves but everyone else in their households by physically reporting to their jobs—in some cases even when remote work would suffice—Dish cowered behind the characterization of itself as a “critical and essential businesses,” adding that “we have a responsibility to provide critical news, information and entertainment, through our video services, to our customers.” Evidently that entertainment has come at the expense of the safety of Dish’s own people.